A number of senior cricketers could lose their places in white-ball cricket as Sri Lanka undertakes a major overhaul of its limited-over sides under a new scheme where players will be selected for international cricket, with a particular focus on the young guns.
While this strategy has been implemented successfully in a small way in Test cricket on recent tours, the selectors and team management think more radical selection with an eye on this year’s T20 World Cup and the 2023 50-over World Cup is the way forward for the struggling white-ball team. The 2014 World Champions embarrassingly need to play a qualifying round to earn a spot at this year’s T20 tournament, a situation head coach Mickey Arthur recently said was ‘unacceptable’.
Accordingly, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Thisara Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne are likely to lose their places in the white-ball side, making way for younger players to come to the side.
However, given his explosive batting style and ability to send down few overs, Thisara Perera will be retained in the T20 side at least for the World Cup in October-November in India but Mathews and Chandimal will lose their places in both formats–a huge blow to the two former skippers.
Mathews, Chandimal, Thisara, Dimuth and Lahiru are all in their early 30s with at least two to three years of international cricket left. But their lack of consistency despite forming the core group has forced the selectors to make drastic changes looking to the future. The team think-tank wants all players to be on same page in all disciplines (batting, fielding, bowling and even running between wickets). They think this is difficult to achieve with ageing seniors.
The possible axing of Mathews and Chandimal, the two most experience batters in limited-over cricket (having made their respective debuts over a decade ago) may lead to questions of whether ‘youth selection’ is the right way to go as short term results will only define Sri Lanka’s position in global cricket.
“It’s a tough call,” an informed source said.
“We have been relying heavily on them for too long but the question is whether we were able to achieve our intended goals.”
Sri Lanka is currently ranked 8th in ODIs and 9th in T20 internationals, the lowest the former World Cup and T20 World Cup champions have fallen into.
The strategy could face strong protest from senior players who would like the team to be selected on the merit of their performances without any discrimination on the basis of age but SLC likely to back the process.
Team head coach Mickey Arthur in a recent interview said that Kusal Mendis, Wanindu Hasaranga, Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando and Lasith Embuldeniya, among others, could form the core of Sri Lanka’s team as they attempt to lift themselves out of poor rankings positions in all three formats.
There is no doubt younger players in the calibre of Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Ashen Bandara and Pathum Nissanka have proved their ability to score runs and are the future of Sri Lanka. But questions remain about the consistency of their performances.
“When all these players come into the side along with Kusal Janith Perera, many of these seniors will struggle to find a place in the side,” Arthur explained.
“We might lose matches in the short run (not that we were winning with seniors anyway) but if we persist with these young players for an year or so, we can definitely see results.”
Accordingly, Kusal Janith Perera is tipped to replace Dimuth Karunaratne as ODI skipper while Kusal Mendis is likely to take over the position of vice captain. He is grooming to be Kusal Janith’s successor one day, provided he reforms himself to be a disciplined leader. Dasun Shanaka will retain the T20 captaincy at least until the World Cup.
“If the captain cannot find an automatic place in the playing XI on merit of his performance, we are not keen on retaining him as captain. So we have weighed all options and ultimately it comes to Kusal Perera,” sources explain.
Sri Lanka recently appointed a five-member new selection panel headed by former Sri Lanka fast bowler Pramodya Wickremasinghe and also brought Tom Moody as Director Cricket, a newly created position with wide ranging powers to make Sri Lanka cricket great once again. The Board also appointed an eminent panel of cricketers headed by Aravinda de Silva to the Cricket Committee to revamp the entire cricketing structure
The new Cricket Committee which also includes former greats in Roshan Mahanama, Muttiah Muralidaran and Kumar Sangakkara have also prepared a new payment structure for cricketers introducing a substantial pay cut on their contract fees.
This has angered the players and the Board in discussion with the players to avoid a possible stand-off. Sri Lanka will travel to Bangladesh for a three match ODI series on May 15th and then to England for three ODIs and three T20s on June 8, 2021