2019 was a very weird year for Kusal Perera. A match-winning 153* at Durban against South Africa in a Test match shot Perera into the limelight. Much like Ben Stokes' stunning Headingley knock against the Aussies in the Ashes, Perera, combining in a game-changing last-wicket stand, stood out for Lanka.
Read | Six great Test innings
But his fortunes dwindled as the year progressed and Perera ended up being an outlier in the Test side by the end of the year. His ODI and T20I record - an average of 31.12 in ODIs and 27.88 in T20Is - isn't eye-catching, but the Lankan has the knack of producing outstanding innings.
His last innings in T20Is was a 45-ball 57 against Australia in Melbourne. But it turned out to be his first half-century since March 2018 in the format. In the World Cup in 2019, Perera slammed a 111 against Bangladesh, but was otherwise off-colour.
As the Indore T20I against India looms, Perera will, however, be a key figure for Sri Lanka. Two years back in December 2017 at the very same venue, when Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul combined in a 165-run opening stand to help India to a total of 260, Perera waged a lone battle for Lanka.
Walking in at no. 3, Perera hit a 43-ball 77, slamming seven sixes and four fours in a lost cause. With no support from the other end, Perera was dismissed in the 15th over and the Lankan innings lost direction thereafter. From 156/3, Sri Lanka collapsed to be bowled out for 172.
Perera averages close to 30 against India in T20Is and has a strike rate of nearly 150 in the format. Other than the 77, he has another half-century against India in T20Is - a 66 in 37 balls at Colombo in 2018.
He will aided by the fact that India have a pace attack that loves hitting the deck - the likes of Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah and Shardul Thakur. Perera is pretty convincing with his horizontal bat shots and could be a threat at the top of the order for Lanka.
Crucially, Sri Lanka seem to have hit upon the right spot for him in the format. At Melbourne in his final knock in the format, Perera batted at No. 3 and made 57. The left-hander averages a whopping 40.18 at no.3 in the format and has a strike rate of 149.32. Given his recent form, previous innings at Indore and a cosy position in the batting line-up, Perera will be Sri Lanka's x-factor for the second T20I.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Ishara S. Kodikara