Skipper Lasith Malinga believes Sri Lanka should build their T20 team over the next 12 months for the World T20 tournament if they are to be competitive at the global event to be held in Australia next year.
Malinga has opted for a young team for the three-match series against New Zealand, leaving out regulars like Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera, a strategy he believes is necessary for success in the fast-paced format.
“My plan is to have a good team of players going into the World Cup,” said the veteran seamer ahead of the Sunday’s opening match of the current series.
“We have 19 matches before the World T20 tournament in 2020. We need to have a good squad of players going into the tournament. It doesn’t matter who captains the side. If we have that, we can go into the tournament with confidence. So I want to lay that foundation here and build on it.”
Malinga was sacked from ODI captaincy ahead of this year’s World Cup as selectors wanted “someone who can get the team together" following several high profile personality clashes in the team. But they reinstated him as the T20 skipper and saw several seniors axed from the team.
“This is a very young side," said Malinga, who was the stand-in skipper when Sri Lanka won the world title in 2014. "They are young and energetic, which is what we need in this format. There are a few players with experience but most of the others are young but highly talented. I think I was able to give them the opportunity they deserve. This is what I expected from the selectors and the board and they have respected my wishes and given me the team that I want.’
Sri Lanka are currently ranked 8th in rankings and have been forced to play the qualifying round to enter the Super 12s. “Like I said before, we have 19 matches before the world tournament and, before that, we need to finalize the squad and those who will get into the final XI," Malinga who is just three wickets short of becoming the first cricketer to reach 100 T20 international wickets explained.
"We cannot try out players close to the tournament. So this is the best time to experiment and get the right combination. In a situation like this, some of the seniors will have to sit it out. Therefore, during the first 10 matches, we'll have to check all the players in the squad, and take a note of them. In the next 9 matches, we'll have to play with one squad."
Sri Lanka: Danushka Gunathilaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera, Kusal Menids, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Malinga, Lakshan Sandakan, Lahiru Kumara, Wanidu Hasaranga, Lahiru Madhushanka
New Zealand: Tim Southee, Todd Astle, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhome, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Scott Kuggeleijn, Daryl Mitchell, Colin Munro, Seth Rance, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor