Selectors keep faith with winning T20 team – retain 16 for Australia
Malinga returns to captain, Dickwella, Kusal Perera and Mendis reclaim spots
Shehan Jayasuriya has edged out Dhananjaya de Silva as off-spinning all-rounder after the latter opted out of the tour to Pakistan.
Of the ten players who opted out of the tour to Pakistan only three have made it to the 16-member squad picked for the three-match T20 International series in Australia later this month as the national selectors kept faith in the players who performed out of the box to seal a historic 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan in the T20I series early this month.
Fast bowler Lasith Malinga returns as captain replacing Dasun Shanaka who led the team in Pakistan. Shanaka however retains his place in the squad. Along with Malinga recalled are wicket-keeper/batsman Niroshan Dickwella and batsman Kusal Perera. All three made themselves unavailable for Pakistan along with Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal, Dinesh Chandimal, Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews on the grounds of security concerns.
Kusal Mendis also returns to the side after missing out the Pakistan tour due to injury.
The return of the four experienced players, chairman of selectors Ashantha de Mel said was essential because they would be part of the squad for the World T20 in Australia next year.
Their return also justifies De Mel’s statement before the tour that players who opted out of Pakistan would not be punished.
However the tour went ahead as scheduled with tight security provided by the Pakistan government and its Cricket Board that ensured a trouble-free ODI and T20I series.
The four who will miss out from the Pakistan tour are wicket-keeper/batsman Minod Bhanuka, fast bowler Lahiru Madushanka and batsmen Sadeera Samarawickrama and Angelo Perera.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to leave out some of the players who performed well in Pakistan but it is a good headache to have because the players who return to the side know that their places are no longer guaranteed because the strong bench strength,” De Mel said.
Soon after returning from the triumphant tour of Pakistan De Mel who accompanied the team as chief selector cum manager said that some of the players who opted out of Pakistan may lose their places if those who went, performed.
In that context off-spinning all-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva finds himself on the sidelines with his place being taken by a similar type of player Shehan Jayasuriya who struck a career best 96 in the third ODI at Karachi and also contributed with bat and ball in the T20I series.
The chief selector has been speaking on several occasions of retaining a 20-member pool until the World T20 and in that circumstance players like Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews will struggle to get selected for future T20I if the younger brigade continues their excellent form they displayed in Pakistan.
Akila Dananjaya is another player whose future is on the borderline after being banned from bowling in international cricket for 12 months by the ICC because of an illegal bowling action.
However in his absence leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga has performed exceptionally well in the middle overs claiming eight wickets in the three-match T20I series in Pakistan to become the leading strike bowler.
The Lankan team leaves for Australia on October 20 to play matches in Adelaide (October 27), Brisbane (October 30) and Melbourne (November 1).