The Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Avishka Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera (wk), Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Jeevan Mendis, Malinda Siriwardana, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Pradeep.
The Sri Lankan Cricket Board (SLC) have announced their 15-man squad for the upcoming World Cup to be played in England. They have also named four additional players who will travel with the team as standby options.
There was a lot of speculation on who the captain is going to be and a day before they announced the World Cup team (17th April), Dimuth Karunaratne was appointed as the captain of the ODI team. He led Sri Lanka to a historic Test series win in South Africa earlier this year but he last played an ODI game four years back, that was during the 2015 World Cup.
There were quite a few surprises in the 15-member squad with the biggest one being the exclusion of wicket-keeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella. The left-handed opening batsman has been a big part of Sri Lanka’s white and red-ball setups. In fact, only three Sri Lankan players have scored more runs than him in ODI cricket since the end of the last World Cup. A couple of other big exclusions are that of Dinesh Chandimal and Upul Tharanga, both of whom feature in the top five run-getters for Sri Lanka in ODI cricket in the last four years. Mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya and top-order batsman Danushka Gunathilaka have also been left out.
With so many surprises, inclusions and exclusion, let’s take a closer look at the entire squad that has been picked for the upcoming World Cup.
Plenty of surprises in the batting department
Batsmen: Dimuth Karunaratne, Avishka Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews
Niroshan Dickwella and Upul Tharanga along with Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews formed the heart of Sri Lanka’s batting line-up over the last few years. However, the Sri Lankan top-order will wear a new look at the World Cup this year. Dimuth Karunaratne who last played an ODI in March 2015 will not only lead the side but also open the batting alongside either of Lahiru Thirimanne or Avishka Fernando in a new-look opening pair. Despite not making the best of starts in international cricket, Fernando who has played just five ODIs and three T20Is has been trusted while Thirimanne last played a 50-over game for Sri Lanka back in December 2017 against India.
Kusal Perera has done well in the recent past and will be a key part of the middle-order. Kusal Mendis has been one of the most consistent batsmen in Sri Lankan cricket for a while but along with Dhananjaya de Silva, he has blown hot and cold in recent times. Hence, there seems to be quite a bit of uncertainty around the batting group with a few new faces and the exclusion of a few familiar ones.
Kusal Perera, the only specialist wicketkeeper in the side
Kusal Perera will be entrusted with the responsibility behind the stumps in the absence of Dickwella. However, Perera has played as designated keeper in only seven games since the last World Cup. Kusal Mendis is the other player who can don the gloves like he did for a couple of games in South Africa.
Quite a few all-round options
All-rounders: Jeevan Mendis, Malinda Siriwardana, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera
Angelo Mathews returns to the squad after missing out on the South Africa tour due to injury. However, it remains to be seen whether he will bowl and how much he will bowl. But there is no doubt that the former Sri Lankan skipper will hold the key in the middle-order. Thisara Perera has been Sri Lanka’s No. 1 all-rounder for a while and will lend balance to the side. He has been one of Sri Lanka’s most consistent performers in white-ball cricket.
Meanwhile, Jeevan Mendis and Milinda Siriwardana add some solidity and depth as spinning all-rounders. Mendis last played an ODI back in February 2015 while Siriwardana last played an international game about 18 months back. Hence, the presence of a couple of well-known and quality all-rounders is a big boost. However, with Mendis and Siriwardana having played very little international cricket, it’ll be interesting to see how they go about things.
Decent pace attack with an inexperienced spinner
Bowlers: Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Pradeep
Lasith Malinga might’ve been sacked as captain but he will lead Sri Lanka’s pace attack in the World Cup. This will be his fourth World Cup. Meanwhile, Suranga Lakmal has been Sri Lanka’s leading pacer in all formats. Nuwan Pradeep has been in and out of the side due to injury concerns but he finds a place as well as he will accompany Malinga and Lakmal in the pace department.
Isuru Udana has been rewarded for his good performances in South Africa as he is the only left-arm pacer in the side. Leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay has been preferred over Akila Dananjaya. Vandersay has played just 21 internationals (11 ODIs and 10 T20Is) since making his international debut back in 2015.
Sri Lanka have been poor in 50-over cricket since the last World Cup. They have won just 23 ODI matches since April 2015 and have the second worst win-loss ratio (0.418) among all teams that have played ODI cricket. Moreover, they have had seven different captains leading them in the 50-over format in this period and Dimuth Karunaratne will become the eighth. Hence, Sri Lanka will start off as massive underdogs in this World Cup.