Sri Lanka in Australia, 2007-08 October 18, 2007

Atapattu included for Australia tour

Total recall: Marvan Atapattu is back in the Sri Lanka squad after intervention from the sports minister © AFP
In a dramatic about-turn Marvan Atapattu, the former Sri Lanka captain, has been included in the Sri Lanka squad for the tour of Australia following a request made by the sports minister Gamini Lokuge.

Atapattu will join the team as the fourth opener - alongside Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga and Michael Vandort - increasing the tour party to 17 players. Atapattu was originally selected in the squad on the belief that he met the national selection committee and thrashed out his problems. But Atapattu refused to attend as long as Ashantha de Mel was the chief selector.

The matter was then taken up by Lokuge who summoned the national selectors and the hierarchy of Sri Lanka Cricket to sort out the issue. The outcome of the meeting was that the minister would speak to Atapattu and, if he was willing to tour Australia, he should be included in the team.

Atapattu asked for time to make a decision on the offer and was abroad on an official assignment in Rome. On his return on Thursday he met Sri Lanka Cricket CEO Duleep Mendis and informed him that he was available for the tour to Australia. "I met Duleep and we spoke about the terms and conditions under which I will be playing. I was satisfied with them and I told him that I was available for Australia," said Atapattu.

Atapattu's return to the national team marks the end of a six-month ordeal which began with the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean where he, although being a member of the team, was not selected to play in any of Sri Lanka's 11 matches in the tournament. He was then overlooked for the one-day series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and when the selectors named him for the home Tests against Bangladesh, Atapattu pulled out saying that he was not mentally prepared to play Test cricket.

Atapattu then wanted Sri Lanka Cricket to release him from his central contract and went onto play a season of league cricket in England with Lashings. He was subsequently left out of the inaugural World Twenty20 tournament and the recently concluded one-day series against England.

"We would welcome Marvan into the team," said captain Mahela Jayawardene. "He is experienced and has done so well for Sri Lanka that you always welcome a guy like that. It all depends on how keen and committed he is to the team. That is the most important thing."

Sri Lanka leave for Australia on Tuesday and the first Test starts at Brisbane on November 8.