With an eye on World T20 qualification, Sri Lanka have recalled four players who missed the winning series in Pakistan. Lasith Malinga will return as skipper of the T20 side, replacing Dasun Shanaka along with Kusal Janith Perera, Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella.
Shanaka, who successfully led Sri Lanka in Pakistan to record a rare 3-0 win in the series, will however retain his place in the 16-man squad. Sri Lanka will play three T20 internationals against Australia beginning on October 12, 2020, in Adelaide.
Malinga, Kusal Perera and Dickwella opted out from the series that just ended in Pakistan due to security concerns. Mendis was forced to it sit out as he was nursing a knee injury he suffered during the New Zealand tour.
Wicket-keeper batsmen Sadeera Samarawickrema and Minod Bhanuka, all-rounder Lahiru Madushanka and middle-order bat Angelo Perera traveled to Pakistan but are likely to sit it out making the way for the four seniors to re-enter the squad.
Malinga, arguably the best shorter format bowler with over 100 international wickets, will play a key role as Sri Lanka look towards next year’s World T20 tournament in Australia. But he has a bad record as skipper. He has lost six of the seven matches he had captained in T20s this year with the only win notched against New Zealand in September this year.
However, Selectors have kept their faith in the 36-year-old former World T20 winning skipper to turn fortunes around in the lead-up to the world tournament as he is considered a good reader of the game.
The players who are likely to retain their places apart from Shanaka are Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa–the top scorer in Pakistan–Danushka Gunathilaka, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Wanindu Hasaranga, Nuwan Pardeep, Lahiru KUmara, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan and Isuru Udana.
Star batsman Angelo Mathews, and Thisara Perera, a T20 specialist have been overlooked once again. Mathews and Perera were axed for the New Zealand T20s played in Sri Lanka in September.
“I think things are falling in line now,” Chief Selector Ashantha de Mel told the Sunday Times. “We have got a good crop of players and that creates a healthy competition among them. It’s bit a of challenge for us as Selectors to get the right combination but I think it’s a good thing for Sri Lanka cricket.”
Through a pragmatic policy of selection and approach, De Mel, who was appointed Chief Cricket Selector in November last year, brought about some radical change to register some memorable victories in Sri Lankan cricketing history.
A change in the Test captaincy after a disastrous tour to Australia early this year saw Sri Lanka beat a fancied South Africa in a Test series. The 2-0 whitewash was a feat no other Sri Lankan team had ever achieved. The team’s victory in Pakistan against the Number 1 ranked team was a historic achievement given the understrength of the squad after ten seniors opted out due to security concerns.
“We have had an issue with the team unity with different players pulling on different directions in the past,” de Mel said. “But we have neutralized that now and we can see players, playing with much more freedom.”