IPL Exclusive: How Isuru Udana's fortunes changed at 2018 APL in Sharjah

Chandresh Narayanan/Dubai
Filed on October 31, 2020
Isuru Udana of Royal Challengers Bangalore is the only Sri Lankan player to have played in this year's IPL. (BCCI)

Isuru Udana was completely written off in his career

If you ever needed an inspiration about never giving back when you are down and out, then look no further than this Royal Challengers Bangalore fast-medium bowler.

Isuru Udana was completely written off in his career. He made his international debut at the age of 21 during the 2009 T20 World Cup in England. But since then his career has seen a number of ups and down.

He was forgotten by many since his debut with his international appearances being very intermittent. But life has changed so rapidly that today in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) he is the only Sri Lankan in the tournament. The other Sri Lankan who was scheduled to play, Lasith Malinga, had to pull out because of personal reasons.

“Three to four years back no one believed in me, now I have achieved this so I am really happy,” Udana told Khaleej Times.

Former Sri Lanka fast bowler Chaminda Vaas and former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram are Udana’s idols. Udana has been working extensively with Vaas, a legend of Sri Lankan cricket also a former left-armer.

“Earlier I liked Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas. I would love to meet Wasim Akram, I have met him once, but I didn’t have much time to talk with him. I am working with Chaminda Vaas, he is a legend. He is giving me a lot of advice and all. I am fortunate enough to work with him,” he said.

“With Chaminda Vaas he allows me to do according to my strengths. So whatever you do, you do it with confidence.”

However, a tournament that changed Udana’s life happened right here in the UAE during the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League (APL) which was played at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Udana was not even part of the initial draft, but was later included in the tournament for Paktia Panthers.

“I feel like that is the change of my cricketing career, especially about those leagues. I was nowhere at that time, I was not even playing for my country at that time. I had the chance that they wanted to pick me as a replacement for another player. That’s how I got my chance,” he explained.

“That was a good experience for me. I am fortunate enough to do well and I got the best bowler award in that tournament. That is the change of my cricketing career.”

Udana ended as the highest wicket-taker of the tournament with 17 scalps from eight matches at an average of 14.41, at a strike rate of 11.2 and gave away 7.65 runs per over.

Udana’s nickname amongst his Sri Lankan teammates is Issa, which stands for prawns in Sinhalese.

His biggest strengths as a bowler are his variations. Udana is aware of how his sides want to use him and looks like he has read the T20 format quite well.

“In T20 you cannot plan much. We can have a proper simple plan for these batsmen. He has a weakness here and his strength is like this. In a game you have to change things because it’s like 20 overs you only get to bowl four overs and specially with my skills all the teams want me to bowl one or two overs in powerplay, and the other two in death,” explained Udana.

“When it comes to the death (overs), you don’t want to, normally if you have got a set batsman, we are not trying to take his wicket, we just want to cut down the runs and automatically wickets will come. So that was my plan. I have a simple plan according to my strengths,” he added.

Currently in the Bangalore franchise, Udana’s role is also to mentor India’s newest Test bowling recruit Mohammed Siraj as part of the mentorship programme.

“It’s a good experience for both of us I think. It is a good experience for the whole group, because we can share our experiences and our achievements. It is good for team bonding and linking. I think it really helped me because there is no Sri Lankan around here, especially in RCB. I am the only Sri Lankan. It helped me a lot because I can know about other players and I can link up with them very easily,” he said.

Bangalore have some big names of the sport including captain Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Aaron Finch, apart from others like Moeen Ali, fast bowler Dale Steyn and Chris Morris.

Udana has enjoyed his experience of being with the franchise and is glad about one thing that he does not have to bowl to Kohli and AB.

“Especially to AB. I had the chance to bowl to him, I am not hoping to bowl to him again,” Udana signed off with hope.

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