Opener Dimuth Karunaratne has emerged as front-runner to take up the limited over captaincy as the selectors prepare to announce Sri Lanka’s World Cup squad on April 18.
Karunaratne, who has not played ODI cricket since the last Cricket World Cup in 2015, scored 165 at an average of 55 in the concluded Super Fours limited over tournament.
With two opening slots up for grabs after potential openers, Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka flopped in the domestic tourney,–possibly ending their hopes of making it into the 15-man squad–Karunaratne has thrown his hat into the ring following a decent outing with the bat.
Karunaratne was never in the frame for the World Cup but his exceptional leadership during Sri Lanka’s historic triumph in South Africa and the ODI team’s disastrous performance under Lasith Malinga forced selectors to look at him closely.
Though former captain Angelo Mathews, highest scorer of the local tournament, is the first choice captain as Sri Lanka look to turn around its fortunes, the former skipper has refused to take on any responsibility while Head Coach Chandika Hathurusingha remains in that position.
Mathews was publicly ridiculed by Hathurusingha after Sri Lanka made a first round exit from the Asia Cup last year and assigned the whole blame for the debacle.
“Malinga is not a bad leader,” said Chief Selector Asantha de Mel. “I have no issue with his knowledge of the game and how he goes about things in the middle but he doesn’t seem to have the support of the coach and the players. Right now, what we need is someone who can get these players together. Otherwise, it would be disastrous for us.”
With Mathews ruling himself out from the captaincy, the selectors are also looking at Dinesh Chandimal—the former Ananda College cricketer who has done the honours a few times in the past.
“But can he earn a place in the side?” de Mel said. “This is the question we are faced with.” Chandimal scored 42 and 35 in two innings during the provincial tournament, hardly a convincing performance from a top order batter who was the captain of Team Colombo.
“The captain should be an automatic choice in the playing XI and these are some of the things we need to sit down and discuss with everyone involved—the provincial coaches and the head coach,” he added.
With regard to team selection, de Mel admitted that they are grappling with more questions than answers at the end of the provincial tournament.
“There are positions up for grab still,” he said. “We are more or less clear about the fast bowlers but when it comes to batsmen and also the spin department, we are grappling with many questions. We need to analyze all aspects and come up with the best possible combination. This is not an easy task and I have never been in such situation in the past.”
Players in the calibre of Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Kusal Mendis, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Janith Perera , Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana and Dushmantha Chameera are likely to get the selectors’ nod, given their experience. The rest of the places are up for grabs.
Sri Lanka will leave on May 7 to England for a one week camp before heading to Scotland to play two ODIs. Sri Lanka’s opening World Cup match is against New Zealand on June 1, 2019.
Sri Lanka’s World Cup fixtures
1 June: Vs New Zealand at Cardiff
4 June: Vs Afghanistan at Cardiff
7 June: Vs Pakistan at Bristol
11 June: Vs Bangladesh at Bristol
15 June: Vs Australia at The Oval
21 June: Vs England at Leeds
28 June: Vs South Africa at Chester-Le-Street
1 July: Vs West Indies at Chester-Le-Street
6 July – India – Leeds