By Nick Creely
As the years go on, and talented Casey-South Melbourne opening batsman Ashley Chandrasinghe continues to develop his game, he’s going to be a tiring sight for opposition bowlers.
A batsman with the ability to occupy the crease for long periods of time regardless of the conditions, stay focused in the moment and never waver from their focus don’t grow on trees.
So its little wonder the stylish 18-year-old left hander is forging a strong reputation at representative and club level.
While Chandrasinghe, a self-described ‘nudger’ with the blade in hand – who has scored 53 off 112 balls, 44 off 97, 36 off 55 and 44 not out off 60 throughout the season in the seconds for the Swans – prefers to occupy the crease, grind down the bowlers and then capitalize, his Youth Premier League tournament last week for the Southern Pioneers’ Under 18 side showed a different side to his game.
And as that part of his game continues to evolve, look out.
In the Twenty20 format – in which the Pioneers went undefeated but had three games cancelled due to smoke from the bushfires – Chandrasinghe shone, overcoming self-doubt about his abilities with the white-ball to be the leading run-scorer of the tournament.
At a strike rate of 115.1, Chandrasinghe crunched 206 runs at an average of 206, striking scores of 55, 88 not out, 14 not and 49 not out against some of the most talented young cricketers in Victoria.
“It was interesting; I didn’t even know there was a smoke policy to be honest. It was a little difficult to keep the concentration levels up during the day, but I think as a group we did well, stayed focused and got around each other,” he said of the tournament.
“On one of the days where it was really smoky we ended up playing one game and did well against Gippsland.
“But I was a bit nervous coming in to the tournament, I believe I’m a bit of a nudger and I like staying in for long periods of time, so I was a bit nervous going into such a high tempo game.
“I had to believe in myself, it was a bit tough but I ended up surprising myself, and probably surprised some other people as well.”
But despite an obvious ability to find the boundary at a rapid rate, Chandrasinghe is technically gifted and extremely patient, and adopts a classical opening batters approach, similar to that of his role models, ex-International legends Mike Hussey and Kumar Sangakkara, both left-handers who possess an incredible attitude towards the game.
“It’s about ball-by-ball concentration, and just trusting my technique and allowing myself to get in and stay there for as long as I can,” he said.
“If you stay in there, you’ll make runs, and that’s my mindset when I’m batting.
“I’ve been taught that if nothing’s going right for you on the day, that technique is something you can always fall back on, so I try and focus on that a lot.
“Obviously I value it a lot, but there are a lot of other things to consider when batting.”
With the momentum gathered from a whirlwind tournament, the rising star’s focus is now on continuing to improve his game at club level with the Swans, and hopefully breaking through for a first XI debut.
“It was a little bit disappointing at the start of the season to get a few starts and not go on with it and with the Carnival just passing it was pleasing to get some results for the hard work,” he explained.
“Starts are better than nothing, I’m happy with how I’m starting my innings’, but a few more scores would be good.
“I’m trying to push for ones selection, so another couple of big scores would top the season off well I guess. For the rest of the season, I’ll try and push my case – I need to work hard for it, need a few more scores and try and make my ones debut.”
Chandrasinghe first played Premier Cricket at the Swans in 2015/16 after playing two games for the Dandenong fourths in 2014/15, and has since worked his way up the grades to play 67 matches, including a breakthrough century in the seconds last season.
He’s also been part of the representative programs for Victoria at the Under 17 National Championships and with the Pioneers since the under 14s.
And he credits his rapid development to a few key people along his journey who have guided him along the right path to a bright future in cricket.
“Brian (Keogh) at Casey has been a massive help for me, he’s always got my back and obviously my family, especially Dad taking me to training, and my personal coach Owen Mottau have been massive,” he said.
He’s also taken plenty of tips from Swans overseas pro Luke Wells, also a tall left-handed opener who loves nothing more than a long innings and to wear the opposition bowling attack down.
“For the club he brings a lot of confidence with a lot of players just because he’s so talented,” he said.
“Personally I haven’t worked with him a lot this season, but last season we touched on his stances and just how he approaches different bowlers at the crease, and that really helped me at the back-end of last year, and that’s thanks to him.”