By Shehan Daniel
Sri Lanka named its 15-member squad for the T20 World Cup next month, with selectors keeping faith in the players selected for the ongoing series against South Africa.
Dasun Shanaka captains a relatively inexperienced squad, possibly the least match experienced that Sri Lanka has fielded for a World Cup, with an average of 20 T20I caps.
All-rounders Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga and Chamika Karunaratne, batsmen Avishka Fernando, Kusal Janith Perera and Charith Asalanka are likely to form the new, young core of Sri Lanka’s top and middle order along with Shanaka, while express-quick Dushmantha Chameera is expected to spearhead the frontline bowlers.
Talented but yet internationally unproven Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dinesh Chandimal, the most capped player in the squad, and Kamindu Mendis will travel as extra batting options, while Nuwan Pradeep will be the only other frontline fast bowler.
Maheesh Theekshana and Praveen Jayawickrama will be the two specialist spin bowling options, the department that Sri Lanka are lightest in in terms of experience, with Theekshana having just made his debut and Jayawickrama yet to play a T20I.
An initial list of players that was widely shared on social media included the name of fast bowler Binura Fernando and spinner Akila Dananjaya in the 15-member squad, but it is understood that following the Dananjaya’s poor returns in the ODIs and T20I against South Africa he was replaced by another all-rounder Lahiru Madushanka.
Selectors had also opted for the more seasoned Pradeep ahead of Fernando.
Both Dananjaya and Fernando will however travel for the tournament as one of four standby players, along with Lahiru Kumara and uncapped spinner Pulina Tharanga.
Who are the notable omissions?
The selectors have resisted the temptation of parachuting players outside of the current squad at the last minute, like they have done for major tournaments in the past.
The selection was mostly as expected, with former captains Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga not in consideration and Isuru Udana retiring after Sri Lanka’s tour of England.
The most notable omissions then are that of Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella, the three players suspended for breaching the bio-secure bubble while on that tour in England earlier this year.
When do Sri Lanka open their campaign and who will they play?
Despite the T20 World Cup being postponed by a year, the qualification process remained unchanged, with Sri Lanka failing to secure direct passage to the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh finished outside the top eight in the international T20 rankings at the qualification deadline in December 2018, meaning they would need to play in the group stage before potentially taking on the bigger teams in the competition.
Sri Lanka have been grouped with Namibia, Netherlands and Ireland with two teams progressing to the Super 12 stage.
They open their campaign on October 18.