Injury-hit Lankans looking out for the fitness of Mathews and Lakmal
By Champika Fernando
Veteran spinner Rangana Herath will only feature in two games of the three-match Test series starting later this month while selectors will also look to manage the workload of injury-prone Angelo Mathews and Suranga Lakmal during the series.
Selectors on Friday announced a 17-man squad for the series which sees the inclusion of four uncapped players (including two fast bowlers)–Asitha Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, a wrist-spinner in Jeffrey Vandersay and an opening batter in Mahela Udawatte.
“Rangana (Herath) will only play two matches in the series,” said Graeme La Brooy. “At 40, there’s only so much his body can handle and we need to manage his workload if we wants to prolong his career.”
The left-arm spinner has borne the responsibility of being Sri Lanka’s premier spinner ever since Muttiah Muralitharan’s retirement from Test cricket in 2010. Mathews and Lakmal, the team’s vice-captain, will also have their workloads managed in order to keep them fit for next year’s World Cup. Accordingly, Mathews who is returning to the side after a long injury lay-off, will play as a specialist batsman during the series.
“Depending on the intensity of the games he plays, we will decide whether or not we want to play him in the third Test,” La Brooy explained. “If Mathews doesn’t score runs and gets out without spending sufficient time in the middle, we will play him in the third test. But if he gets two big hundreds and spends a lot of time in the middle, we will keep him out of the third test. It is the same with Lakmal.”
Both Mathews and Lakmal skipped the first two four-day matches of the ongoing Super Provincial Tournament on medical advice but featured in the final game to prove their fitness to travel to the Caribbean. However, selectors are still to be satisfied with their match fitness.
“They will be training under match-situations in Kandy and we want to see how they fare,” he added. “This is why we selected them subject to fitness.”
With Mathews not playing the role of an all-rounder, the selectors want veteran spinner Dilruwan Perera to fill the void of an all-rounder. Perera, who made his Test debut against Pakistan in 2014, hit a career-best 95 in his maiden innings and since then has maintained an average of above 20 in Tests.
Sri Lanka has a heavy international schedule ahead. Two weeks after they return from their tour of the West Indies in June, the team begins their campaign against South Africa at home. This will be followed by the Asia Cup, England’s visit to Sri Lanka and
Sri Lanka’s tour of New Zealand.
The chief selector also justified the choosing of hard-hitting opener Mahela Udawatte over Kaushal Silva as replacement for injured Dimuth Karunaratne.
“Kaushal hasn’t been among the runs in recent months” he said. “Yes, he has played some good innings for us in the past but Udawatte’s current form is excellent,” he explained. Udawatte hit 97 and 103 not out in a recent four-day match and also scored a century and a half-century in the provincial one-day tournament whereas Silva failed to score a single half-century.
Sri Lanka play three Tests in the West Indies, including a day-night Test, in Barbados. Sri Lanka will begin the series with a three-day practice match in Trinidad, before the first Test begins on the same island, on June 6.
Sri Lanka have never won a series in the West Indies in their last three visits to the Caribbeans.
Test squad: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Mahela Udawatte, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Angelo Mathews (subject to fitness), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lahiru Gamage, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal (subject to fitness), Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando