by Rex Clementine
Despite being not named in the Sri Lanka squad for the three-match ODI series against Afghanistan that gets underway later this week, hard-hitting batsman Kusal Janith Perera has not been ruled out of the World Cup Qualifiers next month in Zimbabwe.
KJP is nursing a shoulder niggle that he picked up in New Zealand and was expected to be named in the squad for the Afghanistan series, but the selectors had decided to give him complete rest fearing he might aggravate the injury.
KJP has been batting in the nets but has been kept out of fielding drills and was left out of the Afghanistan series as a precaution.
KJP missed out on 18 months of cricket as he underwent shoulder surgery. Although he returned to international cricket in New Zealand two months ago, he only featured in the T-20 series.
KJP’s explosive batting will be vital for Sri Lanka during the World Cup Qualifiers. Teams need to submit their squads only before the 10th of June and by then Sri Lanka will have a fair idea about the composition of the squad with the ODI series against Afghanistan completed.
Sri Lanka failed to qualify directly for the sport’s showpiece event later this year – the ICC Cricket World Cup in India and were forced to play the qualifiers.
While the teams have started training at Suriyawewa ahead of the first ODI on Friday, all players who featured in the IPL will return by today (Wednesday). Captain Dasun Shanaka was expected to reach the team hotel yesterday while Matheesha Pathirana and Maheesh Theekshana, the two players who represented champions Chennai Super Kings will reach today.
The Afghanistan series wasn’t part of Sri Lanka’s schedule, but it was arranged to serve as preparation for the qualifiers.
Suriyawewa hasn’t hosted an international game in three years now and a full house is expected at the 35,000-capacity stadium.
Afghanistan and Sri Lanka were involved in a three-match series last November at Pallekele and the series ended in a 1-1 draw with one game being washed out. Afghanistan gained automatic qualification during this series.
Decision on sexual assault case against Danushka Gunathilaka next Thursday (28)
The hearing of the sexual assault case against Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilake before the New South Wales District Court concluded today (21) and Judge Sarah Huggett will hand down her decision next Thursday (28).
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Selectors make ‘U’ turn after requesting Shanaka to step down
by Rex Clementine
The national selection panel that met yesterday made a complete ‘U’ turn having earlier requested captain Dasun Shanaka to step down in the lead up to next month’s ICC Cricket World Cup to be played in India. After Sri Lanka’s horrendous show in the Asia Cup final, where the team was bowled out for 50 runs, their lowest total at home, someone had to be scapegoated and Dasun Shanaka fitted the selectors’ bill.
The captain had been informed to step down so that a new captain could be appointed and accordingly Kusal Mendis was tipped to take over. Team management had endorsed Mendis highlighting him as the player who contributed most during team meetings. He was anyway deputy to Dasun in ODIs.
Although Dasun had expressed his willingness to step aside so that the selectors could make the change, the national selection panel decided to retain Dasun following a meeting yesterday.
While a section of the public had wanted the captain gone due to an extended run of poor form with the bat, some others had argued that axing the captain on the verge of an event like the World Cup wasn’t the most sensible move.
Had Dasun stepped down, he was in fear of not finding a place in the team as well as the selectors had wanted the new captain to make the call of having or not having the misfiring ex-captain in the team.
Despite the debacle in the final, Sri Lanka had done well to progress to the finals of the Asia Cup having beaten Afghanistan and Pakistan and Bangladesh twice. There were fears of the team not progressing beyond the first round after the bowling attack was completely depleted with injuries.
Although Dasun has been now retained as the captain, he will be under tremendous pressure to deliver following a string of low scores. Having said that, he was Sri Lanka’s best batter when the national cricket team toured India earlier this month.
Sri Lanka will leave for India next week and will be based in Guwahati where they will play two warm-up games against Asian rivals Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Sri Lanka’s first game of the World Cup is against South Africa on the 7th of October in Delhi.
Arachchige to lead second-string Sri Lanka side at the Asian games
Sri Lanka have announced a young squad for the 2023 Asian Games – essentially a Sri Lanka A side – with Sahan Arachchige set to lead the 15-member squad.
Among those with international caps, Ashen Bandara tops the list with 11 white-ball games under his belt. Nuwanidu Fernando and Nuwan Thushara have played four games each, while Arachchige has played two ODIs.
A majority of the team have however appeared in the Lanka Premier League (LPL), so fans may not be completely unfamiliar with some of these names, but this will be a good opportunity to observe them over a more consistent period.
Most of the excitement will arguably surround the batters, with the likes of Lasith Croospulle, Shevon Daniel, Fernando and Arachchige having popped up on the radar during the most recent LPL season.
Croospulle was part of ESPNcricinfo’s LPL 2023 team of the tournament for his 232 runs at an average 33.14, while Daniel too had some exciting cameos opening the innings. At just 19, he also has a first-class double ton to his name.
Fernando meanwhile has the distinction of having played one of the most impactful innings in last year’s LPL, when he scored a 42-ball 63 on a surface all other batters had struggled on. This year as well he compiled an unbeaten 39-ball 56 against Dambulla Aura but wasn’t able to take his side over teh line. As for Arachchige, despite having a subdued LPL, he has impressed in recent games for the Sri Lanka A side, notably notching a pair of centuries against England Lions earlier this year.
In Bandara, Sri Lanka have one of the best fielders in the tournament, while his six ODIs for the national side have already brought about two fifties – his relative experience will hold them in good stead. Rounding out the batting will be wicketkeeper Lahiru Udara, lower-middle order batter Ahan Wickramasinghe and allrounders Lahiru Samarakoon, Nimesh Vimukthi, Ranitha Liyanarachchi, Sachitha Jayathilaka and Ravindu Fernando.
On the fast bowling front, a lot will depend on Thushara. Dubbed podi (little) Malinga due to his slingy action, Thushara has been consistently among the better performers in recent LPL seasons. He makes up for his lack of searing pace with good control and variety. Thushara will be supported by 26-year-old quick Isitha Wijesundara, and allrounders Samarakoon and Liyanarachchi.
In the spin department, Sri Lanka boasts a fair degree of variety. Legspinner Vijayakanth Viyaskanth will the lead the way, having broken into the starting XI of Jaffna Kings – and played a key role in their 2022 championship. Nimesh Vimukthi will share the burden with his slow left-arm orthodox, while Ravindu and Arachchige provide offbreak options. Jayathilaka meanwhile is capable of zippy leg breaks pushed quickly through the air.
Sri Lanka have a direct entry into the Asian Games quarter-finals and play their first game on October 4. All matches will be in the T20 format.
Lasith Croospulle, Shevon Daniel, Ashen Bandara, Sahan Arachchige (capt), Ahan Wickramasinghe, Lahiru Udara (wk), Ravindu Fernando, Ranitha Liyanarachchi, Nuwanidu Fernando, Sachitha Jayatilaka, Vijayakanth Viyaskanth, Nimesh Vimukthi, Lahiru Samarakoon, Nuwan Thushara, Isitha Wijesundera
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