New batting star’s hero reveal
New Victorian batting sensation Ashley Chandrasinghe has found a friend in Test opener Usman Khawaja but hasn’t quite worked up the courage to ask for a connection to his batting hero.
The elegant 20-year-old left-hander made an eye-catching, and unbeaten, century on Sheffield Shield debut against a Tasmanian attack featuring former Test quicks Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird last week that immediately put him in the spotlight.
As he reflected on his breakthrough innings Chandrasinghe, who is of Sri Lankan descent but Victorian born, said he “owes Australia everything”. He revealed Aussie Test great Mike Hussey was the man he modelled his batting on as he made his way through junior cricket.
Victoria’s new head of cricket is David Hussey, Mike’s brother, but the low-profile Chandrasinghe, who made 119 not out while facing 334 balls in that ultra-impressive debut innings, hasn’t asked for a hook-up just yet.
And while plenty have put the prospect of a Test call-up in Chandrasinghe’s own future, he’s more concerned about just getting another game for the Vics.
“Any kid playing cricket aspires to represent Australia and get the baggy green,” he said at the Junction Oval on Thursday.
“It’s definitely something you want to strive towards. I’ve only played one game, so I’m just trying to take it each game as it comes – if that comes further down the line, then so be it.
“I suppose it gives you a bit more perspective and context when you achieve the things you have been wanting to achieve and you look to push further a little bit as well.
“But I’m still just trying to work towards the next game and keep getting better. I try not to put any pressure on myself … just try to do as well as I can and keep pushing for Victoria.”
Chandrasinghe said he did make a connection with Khawaja as a rookie while attending his first Australian Cricketers’ Association players’ day.
Having previously told the story of how the Test star told him “we’re the only brown ones here, we’ve got to stick together”, Chandrasinghe said Khawaja made him feel immediately comfortable in a room full of stars he looked up to.
“I didn’t really know anyone there and I was just really excited to be in a room with some well-established players,” he said.
“I was by myself and (Khawaja) came over to me and introduced himself and we sort of got talking and he was just really good to talk to and what he’s gone through at the highest level.
“He said we have to look out for each other a little bit.”
Chandrasinghe said he “definitely” surprised himself with his first innings for Victoria despite having been a prolific century-maker at all levels below first-class cricket.
It was an innings, however, that gave him confidence to kick on having battled his own way to the big stage after falling out of most junior pathways.
“The route I took, I’m really happy I was able to push my way through that. I wouldn’t change anything,” he said.
“At the time when I was in the junior pathways I thought it was the end of the world when you don’t really do that well. But as long as you find a way and keep pushing through, you can reach the end goal.”
Chandrasinghe will next be in action for Victoria when they face Queensland at the Gabba, starting next Thursday.
Originally published as New Victorian batting star reveals his links to Test star Usman Khawaja