Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Melbourne January 10, 2013

Australian experience invaluable for Sri Lanka's young


In choosing their squad for the start of this series, Australia's selectors made no attempt to hide the fact that they were starting to plan for the 2015 World Cup. Sri Lanka might not have trumpeted it, but they too are looking ahead to that tournament. They have been for some time. While they haven't rested veterans and other key players for this series - Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Rangana Herath are all in their mid-30s - they have ensured there is plenty of youth in the group.

There is Akila Dananjaya, the 19-year-old offspinner who emerged last year as a net bowler who had seemingly mastered the doosra and the carrom ball. There is Kushal Perera, the uncapped 22-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman. There is Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne and Thisara Perera, all of whom have become ODI regulars in the past two years, yet are still in the 22-23 age group. Those last three already have experience of conditions in Australia, where the next World Cup will be held. Further exposure will be invaluable.

"It's a very young squad. I think after the last World Cup we've gone in that direction, when we came to Australia for the triangular [series] as well last year we had a very young team," Jayawardene said ahead of the first ODI in Melbourne. "Chandimal, Thirimanne, all those guys are regulars in the one-day team, so going forward you need to look at that [the World Cup]. It's in about another two years' time so all those guys will be looked at.

"The couple of young spinners we've bought in, Ajantha [Mendis] is coming back after an injury layoff, Akila Dananjaya is here as well so those guys will get the exposure they require to bowl in these wickets. We're definitely looking at developing a side for the next four or five years."

While spin might not be the weapon that it can be at home in Sri Lanka, the quality of Mendis, Herath and Dananjaya will make them difficult propositions for Australia's batsmen - even considering the new rules that allow only four fielders outside the circle. Jayawardene said Mendis would draw confidence from his strong record against Australia in the shorter formats, though mostly in T20, and for Dananjaya the trip would be a valuable learning experience.

"Ajantha is a class act and he'll come in with a lot of confidence, knowing that he has had a lot of success against them, but it's just another game of cricket," Jayawardene said. "He has to deliver. We've got a lot of variations in our bowling line-up. That's something that we will try and make use of to create some problems for that line-up. Most of our spinners are looking forward to the opportunity of bowling in these conditions and trying to improve their tricks and see how they can become better bowlers outside Sri Lanka.

"We'll see how it goes with Akila. We wanted him to come and learn. [He may get] an opportunity - we've got a lot of cricket, seven matches is a lot of games. Hopefully he will get a bit of a taste of Australia as well. We just want him to develop into a bowler that we want him to be. This is the start of it. This is his first tour away from Sri Lanka. It will be a good investment for us.

"We've had the opportunity to play in Australia the last three years now, so most of the guys have had that opportunity. The guys who haven't had that opportunity, it will be great for them, especially on different wickets because every venue will provide us with a different surface. We need to adjust to those surfaces pretty quickly. That will be a challenge and the guys will learn from that."

But spin isn't Sri Lanka's only weapon in the limited-overs games. The presence of Lasith Malinga, who has spent the past few weeks in the Big Bash League convincing Australians he is unplayable, is a major boost. David Hussey said this week Malinga, his Melbourne Stars team-mate, was in the form of his life. That kind of hype cannot hurt the Sri Lankans.

"I saw what Huss has [said about Malinga]," Jayawardene said. "He's got people thinking, that's good. It's good to know that people are thinking about it obviously and they'll probably expect those deliveries to come at them as well. We've got a few other guys who have got that x-factor in our line-up. As long as one or the other clicks and gets the job done for us on the day."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Milroy on January 11, 2013, 15:29 GMT

    SL should bring in players between the ages of 19/22. The retirement must come early as 37-38 and seniors should continue as long as they perform and the ability to challenge the youngsters. under performing Jayasooriya is a good example playing after 40's - being in international scene expecting IPL contracts!!!

  • Rafid on January 11, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    Srilanka is a very ODI side as we all will be great to see SriLanka winning the series against the of luck SL

  • manjula on January 10, 2013, 20:24 GMT

    @miles100 comments are great...all Sri Lankan successful cricketers started playing at their age is 19/20. Get them as soon as they come out from School before someone messup them. Even Sachin Tendulkar came to stage at age of 17. All those given early chance was succesful.

  • Dummy4 on January 10, 2013, 19:53 GMT

    In Internationals Lasith Malinga go for 10 overs 70 runs minimum. Go Australia. Make it 1 - 0. From an cricket loving Indian fan

  • Lalith on January 10, 2013, 19:12 GMT

    I hope SL would not make us shame in ODI and T20 series against this BABY CANGAROOS.

  • Milroy on January 10, 2013, 16:38 GMT

    It's worth giving opportunities to all youngsters (at least one game), no matter the out come is...make this a learning curve for SL future cricket in AUS and for 2015 WC in AUS.

    LIONS can be really hard on wild kangaroos in ODI/T20's

    Good luck my Sri Lanka, we are always with you for all the hard work you guys have done to bring glory to our nation!!!!!!!

  • Kumara on January 10, 2013, 15:00 GMT

    @Master_Mihil First Kushal has to be picked for the playing XI, which is not going to happen with Sir Upul Tharanga back in the team. May be he'll play one of the T20s but not ODIs.

  • Miles on January 10, 2013, 14:54 GMT

    Still thirimanne has to show more match winning abaility like Dinesh. they say Lahiru is young and he is the future etc etc etc. Still I have not seen him winning enough matches single handed like Dinesh, Thisara and Mathews. He is 23 now and he is old enough to win matches single handed. Otherwise there is no point in keeping players who are not genuine match winners. Hope he can do something extra ordinary that he has never shown before.