The dough was left out due to failed fitness tests on the Caribbean and Bangladesh tours
Avishka Fernando, long considered one of the best contestants for limited overs in Sri Lanka, has been completely removed from the roster for Sri Lanka’s first two limited overs this year (in the Caribbean and in Bangladesh). The failure wasn’t due to runs or form, but rather to failed fitness tests – trainer Mickey Arthur made fitness a non-negotiable issue for players this year.
Although Fernando was clearly stung by overlook, he eventually worked his way back to the national team after using his months away from the team to improve his fitness. For the last four ODI innings, Fernando now has scores of 33, 50, 76 and 118. The century of Thursday’s match winning in hot conditions was facilitated by his improved fitness, he said.
“I missed a few tours because of my fitness and I tried to learn from them,” said Fernando. “I’ve managed to improve my fitness. It actually makes it a lot easier for me to hit and play. I see a big improvement there.”
Fernando’s efforts, especially in the ring, have also been better in the past two months. He was particularly impressive during the SLC Invitational T20 League in August.
“I haven’t done a lot of specialist training, but I think when you improve your fitness everything gets easier. I think a lot of the improvements in my game are now simply due to better fitness.”
Fernando formed three productive partnerships during his 115-ball 118 on Thursday, the best of which was the 97-run stand for the fourth wicket, with Charith Asalanka, who hit 72 of 62. Fernando and Asalanka have beaten age-group teams in Sri Lanka since their youth and also play for the same local team – the Singhalese Sports Club. He said the familiarity he and Asalanka share at the fold is a boon to their partnership.
“We’ve played cricket together a lot since we were 15 or 16,” said Fernando. “We know each other’s games very well. If he hits, I might be able to tell him something, and if I hit, he’ll talk to me too. There is a good bond between us. When he and I got together,” we had lost three wickets so we talked about beating up to 41st or 42nd place.
Fernando also revealed that the overall winning total Sri Lanka eventually put up exceeded the number of points the team was supposed to be aiming for at the start of the innings.
“When I started hitting I felt it was a good place to hit and our goal was a score of around 270 or 280. But because we hit well, we were able to go over that to 300.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is the Sri Lankan correspondent for ESPNcricinfo. @afidelf