The all-rounder made his debut a couple of years ago and has since played only 13 ODIs, but the selectors brought him into the set-up after the dismal Asia Cup campaign saw Mathews kept away from the team.
Shanaka may not have had too many chances with the national team but in recent months has been in good form in domestic cricket. The all-rounder scored 312 runs at an average of 72 in the Provincial T20 tournament, where he finished as the second highest run-getter.
"I've been sent up to No. 5 because I had been consistent in the domestic T20 and limited-overs tournaments," Shanaka said. "What the team needs is for me to bat as many overs as possible. The challenge is to get myself in then settle into my natural game. If I do that the runs will come.”
Quickfire knocks of 105* of 52 balls and 60* of 29 balls has given the Sri Lankan selectors hope for the number 5 spot, which is mostly related to consolidating the innings or finishing the innings, something they could have depended on Mathews for previously.
Against the visiting English team though, Shanaka managed only eight runs in the second ODI and has to pull up his socks sooner rather than later.
"The coach spoke to me and gave advice on how to prepare and how to bat for long. Tactics are most important to improve that area of the game - I have been asked to play out the first 15-20 balls and then to go for my shots."
The team management though is currently looking to get players to find their groove in their respective roles. "If we have a settled batting order it's good for the team. We have talked a lot about it, and the captain and senior players have decided that from this series we should try and let players get used to their roles," he added.
Shanaka is in need of a strong performance and will be aware that not making the most of the limited opportunities could lead to his ouster from the team at a crucial time and pave the way for Mathews’ return.
First Published: October 17, 2018, 8:10 AM IST