POOR form and player injuries have prompted Sri Lanka’s selectors to make sweeping changes to the squad for the tri-nation tournament in Bangladesh next month, also featuring India.
Those dropped include batsmen Sanath Jayasuriya and Chamara Kapugedera, fast bowler Lasith Malinga and spinner Ajantha Mendis, all of whom had disappointing performances on the recent tour of India.
Sri Lanka lost the three-Test series 0-2, split the two Twenty20s and lost the five-match ODI series 1-3. Injuries to key players through the tour made the assignment in India tougher.
In fact, batsman Mahela Jayawardene, all-rounder Angelo Mathews and bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan and Dilhara Fernando were not considered for the 15-man squad to Bangladesh having picked up injuries in India.
Middle-order batsman Thilan Samaraweera was spared the axe, due more to Jayawardene’s injury, and selection committee sources said the 33-year-old right-hander would add experience to the batting line-up and help ease the pressure on captain Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga.
Among the new inclusions are Chamara Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne, leg-spinner Malinga Bandara and fast bowler Thilan Thushara.
Silva, 30, finished as the top run-scorer in the domestic Premier League Tier A tournament, with 900 runs from 11 matches at 56.25 for Bloomfield, scoring three hundreds and four fifties during the campaign. Most impressive was his strike rate of 99.77.
Having last played an ODI in August last year, and his last appearance for Sri Lanka being in the 2009 World Twenty20 final against Pakistan, he will keen to make the most of the opportunity.
“We think that Silva has a role to play in the World Cup. He is a fast accumulator of runs and he is a brilliant fielder,” selection sources told Cricinfo.
Thirimanne, 20, finished as Ragama Cricket Club’s leading run-getter this season, with 709 runs in eight matches at 59.08, including two centuries and five fifties. Selection panel sources said Thirimanne was an exciting prospect and his ability to finish a game would be extremely handy.
His Ragama team-mate Bandara was also rewarded for his perseverance and was handed another opportunity to seal his place in the national side as a spinner. In fact, the uncertainty surrounding Muralitharan’s availability for the 2011 World Cup has prompted the selectors to look elsewhere for spinning options.
Left-arm fast bowler Thushara also made a return to the side after a freak shoulder injury which forced him to return from India. All-rounder Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Suranga Lakmal and Suraj Randiv, who were replacements to India, have been retained.
The tournament will be played January 4-13 with Sri Lanka taking on the hosts in the first match in Mirpur.
Sri Lanka squad: Kumar Sangakkara (capt. & wkp.), Tillakaratne Dilshan (vice-captain), Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thissara Perera, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Malinga Bandara, Suraj Randiv, Thilan Thushara, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Kulasekara and Chanaka Welagedera. (Crcinfo)