Sri Lanka will be without a handful of regulars when they play their first T20I in almost a year against the West Indies in Antigua tomorrow, but coach Mickey Arthur believes it gives an opportunity for fresh faces to impress.
Among the players who did not travel to the West Indies are openers Kusal Janith Perera and Avishka Fernando, who failed fitness tests, and all-rounders Dhanajaya de Silva and Isuru Udana, who are out with injuries.
Dasun Shanaka, the newly appointed T20I captain, has been unable to rejoin the team after a passport lost in 2018 resulted in a delay in him obtaining a new visa to the United States, and he will now miss the entire T20I series.
That has seen uncapped Pathum Nissanka, Ashen Bandara and Dilshan Madushanka being called up to the national team for the first time, while Ramesh Mendis, who debuted during the Test series defeat to England, was also included in the 20-member squad.
Strong performances in this three-match series could also see them in contention for the T20 World Cup in October, Arthur said.
“I've got a pretty good idea with the selectors on what our best 11 is, what our best 15 is. But as I say there's opportunity here and now for the guys, because we have got so many of those guys that would start out (for the series),” Arthur told the media on Monday ahead of the first T20I.
“There’s a real good feeling around the team, and again as I say, it's opportunities for young guys, and some senior players, to show us that they deserve an opportunity in that World Cup squad in the next couple of months.
Another notable absentee is fast-bowler Lasith Malinga, who has not played cricket since March last year, after withdrawing from the Indian Premier League and the Lanka Premier League last year.
While Malinga is yet to officially announce his retirement from international cricket it appears unlikely he will feature for the country again, though Arthur believes the right-arm pace bowler still had a role with the team.
“I think Mali (Malinga) can play a real role for us in a mentoring capacity with our young quick bowlers, particularly in the white ball format. Mali's got a wealth of knowledge. I'd like to see him being able to impart that knowledge onto our younger bowlers,” Arthur said.
Sri Lanka’s last T20I series was at home against the West Indies, which the hosts lost 0-3.
The three T20Is will be played at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua starting at 3:30 a.m Sri Lankan time.