Karunaratne’s next target: 100 Tests, 10,000 runs and Usman Khawaja

Sri Lanka
That Dimuth Karunaratne is a stats nerd, particularly about his career, has been known for some time. But now, 89 Tests in, the captaincy behind him (to his great relief), he has got some serious numbers in his sights. We’ll get to those soon, but for now, the man he is chasing is Usman Khawaja – another left-handed opener.
Karunaratne had once spoken about how the player whose record he wanted to better was Dean Elgar, who at the time had a better average and run tally than him. Karunaratne has surpassed Elgar on both those fronts, and now wants to get past Khawaja’s annual run tallies.
Since the start of 2022, Khawaja has scored 2476 runs, to Karunaratne’s 1254. But then Khawaja has played 50 Test innings, to Karunaratne’s 26. Khawaja’s average is better through that period – 56.27, while Karunaratne’s is 50.16.

No other openers have been in their class in terms of average. They were the openers chosen for the ICC’s Test team of the year, though Sri Lanka played only six Tests in 2023.

“Among openers, I think I’m in a pretty good place, compared to others internationally,” Karunaratne said after hitting 77 against Afghanistan. “But recently Usman Khawaja has been very good. He’s been consistent last year and the year before. What I’m trying to do is to compare myself to him year by year, and also to be in that World XI every year. When Khawaja plays, I follow the series – the Ashes, and even the recent West Indies series. I watch how he bats and what he does.

“You need these things to force you forward. Otherwise, when you don’t have a target, you don’t have that kick to improve.”

“Recently Usman Khawaja has been very good. He’s been consistent last year and the year before. What I’m trying to do is to compare myself to him year by year”

But 35 years old now, Karunaratne is also ticking off some major milestones that not many openers outside England and Australia (who tend to play the most Tests) get to. Numbers with zeros that follow them. The kinds of numbers you associate with the best.

“My first goal is to get to 100 Tests,” Karunaratne said. “That’s a great achievement for any Test cricketer. If I get there, I want to see how close I am to 10,000 runs, and then I’d try to push for that. At the moment my fitness is good. I’m trying to leave a good legacy in this format. I’m close to 7000 runs, and maybe in the next two or three years, I can get to that 3000 more. Those are my two goals, so I have to maintain my fitness and consistency.”

It’s a little more than 3000, because even after his 77 against Afghanistan, he’s still on 6708 career runs. Which sounds pretty middle-of-the-road until you clock that he is by far Sri Lanka’s highest run-scorer as an opener, having made 6615 when opening the innings, with Sanath Jayasuriya at second place with 5932.
Overall, he is the fifth-highest run-scorer for Sri Lanka behind Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews and Jayasuriya (who batted lower down the order for a significant portion of his career).

“Yes, I’m someone who is very aware of my stats and I compare that with others. There’s Sanath aiya, and then there’s Angelo after that. I am trying to get to my targets and then be able to look back after I retire and take satisfaction in that.

“It’s not enough to have played cricket and represented your national team. That’s why I love this format, because it gives me a lot of satisfaction. I want to try to pass all these legends one by one. I’ve been able to do that to some extent. I’m trying to do more.”

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