No surprises in Sri Lanka’s World Cup squad

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Time was when the national selection panel sprung quite a few surprises when naming World Cup squads. Total outsiders and players who hadn’t featured in the team for years had been parachuted for the sport’s showpiece events. However, there were no surprises this time and the selectors have done a thorough job in picking the squad.

A few questions remain to be answered though. Selection chief Upul Tharanga has been very transparent with his dealings and we are sure he will shed some light into some of these selections.

Test captain Dhananjaya de Silva is perhaps the most debatable choice. With the top six set (Pathum, Kusal, Sadeera, Chairth, Kamindu and Angelo) and Kamindu providing a spin bowling option, you wonder whether DDS was required in the squad. Let’s wait for Tharanga’s explanation on this.

The other selection that you are thinking about is that of Dunith Wellalage. No doubt the former Under-19 captain is one of the brightest prospects around but if you had him in your World Cup plans, then why did he not feature in recent T-20 outings? Wellalage is the only uncapped player in the squad and if he plays in the US and the Caribbean, he would be making his debut. Hopefully the mistake of last year will not be repeated. Wellalage was picked for the World Cup in India 2023, but after the first couple of games was just a mere passenger.

We will of course have better answers once the selectors address the media briefing shortly.

The most notable absence in the squad is of course Kusal Janith Perera. Probably the fiercest striker of the cricket ball, KJP has struggled in his comeback after injury. His experience and the impact he can make are hard to ignore, but the most important currency for selection, form, is not on KJP’s side. The selectors would have been left with Hobson’s choice and overlook the former captain.

Another player to get the cold shoulder is opening batter Avishka Fernando. He had featured regularly in white ball cricket this year but in Bangladesh he encountered new problems unable to counter left-arm swing bowling and doesn’t make the cut to the US and West Indies.

Binura Fernando had done reasonably well this year, but Nuwan Thushara outperformed him with his hat-trick in Sri Lanka’s last T-20 series and finds a slot in the squad.

Fast bowling resources look very good with all quicks available for selection, Dushmantha Chameera spearheads the attack and he’s backed up by the brilliant Matheesha Pathirana with Dilshan Madushanka providing variety with his left-arm seam bowling.

Angelo Mathews and Dasun Shanaka provide backup seam bowling options. Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana are the key spin bowlers. Injury forced Hasaranga to skip IPL and in the World Cup preparation domestic tournament, he featured only as a batter.

Since assuming duties as T-20 captain, Hasaranga has had more impact as a batter than a bowler performing his role as a floater to perfection.

Bowling has experience, skill and variety, batting is yet to reach the full potential but when you look at the card, it should come good in the biannual event.

Sri Lanka have raised their fielding standards this year since Upul Chandana took over as Fielding Coach and they need to keep working in this vital aspect. A half-chance or a direct hit can make so much difference in the game. Sri Lanka owe it to their fielding for their success in ODI and T-20 cricket this year.

In the last two T-20 World Cups in UAE and Australia, Sri Lanka had their moments but fielding cost them dearly.

It’s been a while since the team entered a semi-final in an ICC event and there’s lot of hope this time around they can make it. Hopefully Hasaranga’s side will go on to make an impact.

It’s been a good year for the team so far but the real challenge is in the second half of the year where they will face stronger opponents than Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The national cricket team leaves for New York on Tuesday and will hold a two-week preparation camp before the competition gets underway.

They are pooled alongside South Africa, Bangladesh, Nepal and Netherlands and will play the Proteas on 3rd June in their first game.

The first game is crucial and if they beat South Africa, they would breathe easy, but if they lose, the game against Bangladesh will be a high-pressure game.

Given their recent form, the team should qualify for the second round. But can they go beyond?

Sri Lanka Squad:

Wanindu Hasaranga (Captain), Charith Asalanka (Vice-Captain), Kusal Mendis (Wicketkeeper), Pathum Nissanka, Kamindu Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama (Wicketkeeper), Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Nuwan Thushara, Dilshan Madushanka

 

Travelling Reserves: Asitha Fernando, Vijayakanth Viyaskanth, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Janith Liyanage