Sri Lanka v New Zealand, World T20 2012, Super Eights, Pallekele September 26, 2012

Sri Lanka face selection dilemmas


Sri Lanka are expected to be one of the most settled sides in the World Twenty20 as they are the hosts and have held their domestic Twenty20 competition recently. Their approach to the Super Eights however, has been defined by uncertainty. Sri Lanka would have hoped to determine a team combination by the end of the group stage. But that hasn't happened as they were largely untested by Zimbabwe, and can take precious little out of a match against South Africa that was shortened to just seven overs per side.

As a result, the selection quandaries for the match against New Zealand in Pallekele are many. Opener Dilshan Munaweera hasn't set the tournament alight in his two innings, but he hasn't looked entirely out of place either, even if debutant's nerves have curbed his aggression thus far. Having invested so much in him, the team management may not like to let him go so early, but they will also be tempted to post Mahela Jayawardene alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan to comprise perhaps the most proven opening duo in the tournament. If Munaweera is left out completely, a less aggressive Dinesh Chandimal is the alternative. If they bat Munaweera down the order, he will be expected to perform a role that is unsuited to his game and might expose a major weakness - an aversion to rotating the strike.

Ajantha Mendis is Sri Lanka's in-form player, and the side strain that kept him out of the match against South Africa has also put him in doubt for New Zealand, opening a fresh conundrum for the selectors. If unable to play, they may debate to replace Mendis with a similar bowler in Akila Dananjaya, or stay with Rangana Herath, who may not break a game open in a malevolent spell but is still a bankable option.

If Pallekele assists the seamers, Sri Lanka may only play one spinner. If it is also Dananjaya's debut, the pressure of being the only frontline spin option could add to the anxiety of going from tier-three school cricket to a major international tournament in less than three months. A start against South Africa in the group match might have been a better way to ease Dananjaya into international cricket had the Hambantota weather not intervened.

"Dananjaya is certainly very close to playing," Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford said on the eve of the Super Eights opener. "He was probably going to play against South Africa and then the game got reduced and there was the chance he would've been bowling with a wet ball. He was going to get a game there and he's certainly not here just to carry the drinks."

Frustratingly for Sri Lanka, they haven't yet had a close look at the way Pallekele is playing during the tournament. Having arrived from the south, their training sessions have been at the old Test ground in Asgiriya. If Sri lanka progress to the semi-final, they will be the only team in the tournament to have to acclimatise themselves to all three venues. South Africa are the only other team in the Super Eights to have played in Hambantota, but all their matches, including any prospective knockout encounters, will be in Colombo from now on.

"Ideally we would have liked to have had a session down at Pallekele" Ford said. "I think we're the only team in the group that hasn't had a session down there, so that's a bit of a disadvantage. We thought we were going to get a session but unfortunately didn't. A bit hard in Asgiriya because the outfield is not conducive for fielding practice and the nets have got a bit tired towards the end. It hasn't been ideal, but at the end of the day you've got to make what you can of what you've got."

Sri Lanka will be encouraged by the depth and flexibility in their squad, but they will hope to nail down a preferred XI as the tournament heats up. With a competent seam bowler in Shaminda Eranga among the reserves, three bona-fide allrounders in the team, and Dilshan and Nuwan Kulasekara who can also contribute in both disciplines, a formidable side shouldn't be difficult to put together regardless of the conditions. They will want to feel a little more at home in their own tournament over the next two weeks.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rahul on September 27, 2012, 9:12 GMT

    will Ajantha Mendis play today?

  • suranga on September 27, 2012, 7:29 GMT

    Assuming A Mendis wont play, I like to see how they r going with this team. My point of selecting this team is, if 7 batsmen (up to T Perera) cant bat through 20 overs, 8th batsman wont do any deference. in this line up Sl hv 4 spin options and 4 fast options too

    Munaweera, Dilshan, Mahela, Sanga, J Mendis, Mathews, T Perera, Kulasekara, Herath, Malinga, Dhananjaya

  • Kunal on September 27, 2012, 7:01 GMT

    This group is so easy. Sri Lanka and West Indies will go through. Sri Lanka will top the group by CRUSHING minnows New Zealand, GAYle dependent WI and Lucky England. We are Lankan LIONS and WE ROAR!!!!! MEEEOOOW!

  • Dinesh on September 27, 2012, 6:11 GMT

    Dilshan,Kulasekara,DineshC,Jayawerdana,Thirimanna,Sanga,Thisara,Mathews, J.Mendis,Malinga,A.Mendis This should be today batting order.

  • Dummy4 on September 27, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    This game could go either way but sadly I think the toss and the weather will decide it. Rain is expected in the afternoon - and that means the ball won't turn hardly at all once it gets wet and the team batting second has a HUGE advantage as the Duckworth Lewis system does not give wicket much credence in T20 to the point where it is ridiculously unfair to the side batting first as Sri Lanka found out against SA. The side batting second will win this game if it rains plain and simple so this game could be won with the toss of a coin and that is just stupid -the system needs to be fixed

  • Dummy4 on September 27, 2012, 5:18 GMT

    SL should not play according to what they have seen in SLPL...this is international cricket, they should play to their own strength....Malinga is most important along with Jayawardene.

  • Keith on September 27, 2012, 4:05 GMT

    Selectors don't look at comments, yet since we have the oppurtunity to comment . Munaweera should be left out if SL is to have a chance. Whatever investment made towards him, he looks like a fish out of water in the middle, not even capable of rotating the strike. Then get's out in the 20 odd runs with a strike rate of 40%. Against NZ the logicle option is playing both Ajantha & Akila. My best for SL is (batting order) 1.Dilshan 2.Mahela 3.Kumar 4.Thisara 5.Jeevan 6.Nuwan 7.Anjelo 8.Malinga 9.Ajantha 10.Akila 11.Shaminda. Then again what do I know.

  • manjula on September 27, 2012, 3:31 GMT

    when i go through all this comments i can see some are telling to dropped munaweera,i would like to asked from every body did all these players scored in this 2 matches no munaweera faced for first time in international cricket but cant see wrong anything in his batting. he faced well to dale steyn and morkel what about the experience players playing more matches did they go for shots noway.anyway good luck to our sri lanka cricket team

  • Dummy4 on September 27, 2012, 3:27 GMT

    Whtever temam the Lankans play.......... newzealand's going down... wach the LION'S ROAR....

  • Dummy4 on September 26, 2012, 18:14 GMT

    my eleven for tomorrow will be 1.Mahela Jayawardena 2.Tillakaratne Dilshan 3.kulasekra 4..Kumar Sangakkara 5.Dinesh. Chandimal 6.Thisara Perera 7.Angelo 8Jeevan Mendis 9.Lasith Malinga 10.Ajantha Mendis/Herath 11.Akila Dananjaya........since sri lanka can bat deep my choice on kulasekara should be promted to no.3 as all we know he is capable of big shot 2ndly he can contribute surely more than wat munaweera can do..thats gives an additional bowling option as well 2 specialist can mk things diff to nzl.

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