COLOMBO: Kusal Perera became a national hero in Sri Lanka on Sunday a day after scoring an unbeaten 153 to guide his country to a sensational first Test victory in South Africa.
The country’s cricket legends and politicians lauded Perera, who has become a linchpin for the ailing national side since fighting off doping charges in 2016.
Former skipper Kumar Sangakkara, who had staunchly defended Perera when he was suspended in December 2015, called the performance at Kingsmead in Durban on Saturday ’unreal’.
“What an amazing win,” Sangakkara said on Twitter. “One of the best if not THE best overseas win by Sri Lanka. Kusal Janith Perera was unreal.”
Sangakkara stood by Perera when he was wrongfully accused of doping in 2015. The International Cricket Council lifted the suspension in 2016 and apologised for the botched testing.
Another former Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene said on Twitter: “What a beauty! One of the best innings under pressure.”
Jayawardene said Perera, who put on a last wicket partnership of 78 had shown ‘intelligence and mental strength’.
Perera scored 67 in an unbroken last-wicket stand with Vishwa Fernando (6) which gave his underdog team a sensational victory.
Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also took to Twitter to hail the win.
“Congratulations to our cricket team on snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat,” Sirisena said. “Kusal Janith Perera makes mother Sri Lanka very proud today! Keep fighting!”
“Great spirit by @kusaljperera and all the youngsters #SAvSL,” added Wickremesinghe while thanking the national side which has been the butt of jokes due to poor recent results.
“U beauty”, said Sports minister Harin Fernando on Twitter.
Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996 and since has been plagued by management scandals, allegations of corruption and player squabbling.
They were swept 3-0 in a home Test series against England last year and were then beaten in Australia and New Zealand.
Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2019