Sri Lanka made a bunch of surprise additions – and omissions – to their one-day international set-up in announcing their 15-member squad for the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.
All of Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dinesh Chandimal, Upul Tharanga and Akila Dananjaya were axed from the squad. Dananjaya's exclusion was particularly surprising, since the spinner is their highest wicket-taker – 27 scalps at 23.92 in 15 innings – in the last 12 months. Dickwella, too, has been decent in the said period, notching up 497 runs in 15 innings, 64 runs behind the top-placed Thisara Perera.
The overhaul to their squad came after their disappointing returns in the ODI series in South Africa, where they were steamrolled 5-0 by the hosts. While the performances from the snubbed cricketers have not been ideal, their exclusion might create a dearth of experience in Sri Lanka's World Cup squad.
New times, new leadership
Dimuth Karunaratne, who last played one-day international cricket in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2015, has been named captain for this edition. The left-hander has had a decent Test season and is an experienced player with 77 international appearances. Under his leadership, Sri Lanka won their first Test series on South African soil earlier this year. Will they find consistency and success under him?
But it can't be only up to Karunaratne – Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera are among those in the side to have led the side across formats at some point in the last two years, and they too will have a role to play in helping the team come together.
Angelo Mathews recovers in time
Matthews, the former Sri Lanka skipper, was dropped from the ODI side due to fitness concerns back in September 2018. He then suffered a grade two hamstring strain midway through the tour of New Zealand, and has been out of the national set-up since.
However, the 31-year-old is back in contention with promising domestic performances. He made 101, 47 and 78 in the Super Four Provincial Limited-Overs Tournament, making a strong case for World Cup selection just a week before the provisional squad announcement. His experience will be key.
Lifelines for Thirimanne, Siriwardana, Jeevan Mendis and Jeffrey Vandersay
Batsman Lahiru Thirimanne and spinner Jeffrey Vandersay, along with all-rounders Milinda Siriwardana and Jeevan Mendis, were the surprise inclusions. While Thirimanne, Vandersay and Siriwardana last played ODI cricket in 2015, Mendis has been out of the 50-over squad since the previous edition of the World Cup.
Most of these surprise call-ups have come after strong domestic performances, particularly over the last couple of months. Mendis has picked up 19 wickets and scored four half-centuries in his last 10 games, while Siriwanda has three 30-plus scores in four innings.
Thirimanne and Vandersay were a part of the Twenty20 International series against South Africa, where they did enough to make a case for themselves.
Onus on Malinga, Thisara
The onus will be on senior players like Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera The onus will be on senior players like Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera
Amidst an avalanche of changes, Malinga and Thisara Perera have retained their positions. Thisara has been Sri Lanka's highest run-scorer in the last 12 months. His all-round ability and World Cup experience make him a valuable asset, and his form might well determine how far Sri Lanka go.
Malinga, meanwhile, is the most experienced player in the 15-member squad. The pace bowler has made 218 ODI appearances and has looked in good touch in domestic cricket.