July 9, 2001

Lankan squad for tri-series with India, New Zealand

The Sri Lankan selectors have made four changes to the one-day squad that won the ARY Gold Trophy in Sharjah in April and have revealed a change of strategy for the forthcoming triangular series against India and New Zealand.

Five fast bowlers and only two specialist spinners have been picked in the 15-man squad, an unusual combination on Sri Lanka pitches. The final team is expected to include three fast bowlers.

The new look squad, the first selected by the new five-man panel of selectors, confirms that the team management and selectors are now focusing their attention on the 2003 World Cup, where it is felt that Sri Lanka will need the services of fast bowling all rounders.

Suresh Perera and Dulip Liyanage have been marked out as fast bowlers capable of scoring valuable runs in the lower middle order and they have been included in the squad in place of Akalanka Ganegama and Thilan Samaraweera. The recall of 23-year-old Perera is based upon potential, rather than hard statistics. In his last 11 ODIs he averages just 10.6 and has only scored two half centuries in his 36 match first class career. Nevertheless, he is clearly an exciting prospect, possessing the priceless potential to change the course of a match with both bat or ball.

Dulip Liyanage, no youngster at 29 years of age, is recalled after an impressive first class season for Colts CC, in which he averaged 22.7 with the bat and claimed 38 wickets. He made his ODI and Test debut way back in 1992/3 before suffering from a debilitating ankle injury.

Dilhara Fernando, Chaminda Vaas, and Nuwan Zoysa, subject to his expected recovery from an ankle injury, all retain their places in the squad.

All the fast bowlers can look forward to helpful conditions in the tournament, especially when they play India, as the curators have been asked to leave more grass on the pitches. Slower pitches are, however, expected in the New Zealand games.

Avishka Gunawardene and Chamara Silva are recalled after impressive performances against Pakistan A, in place of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Indika de Saram, both of whom have failed to grasp the opportunities given to them by previous selection committees.

Tillakaratne Dilshan stormed onto the international scene 18 months ago with an unbeaten Test century in his second game, but has disappointed thereafter, especially in the Test arena. In one-day cricket he has played 14 games, but has not batted in the top six on six occasions and has never been given an opportunity to bat higher up the order than number six.

Indika de Saram, nearly 28, has now played in 15 ODIs, but has failed to pass fifty once and boasts a highest score of just 38 and an average of 16.63. He too, however, has often suffered from a lowly position in the batting order.

Kumar Sangakkara retains his place in the squad though he has been in poor form recently. With Romesh Kaluwitharan likely to take the gloves, Sangakkara will be forced to compete with Gunawardene and Silva for the final batting places.

Should Sri Lanka opt to play seven batsmen and four bowlers, then both Gunawardene and Sangakkara will probably play ahead of Silva. However, they may well play six batsmen and ask Kumar Dharmasena, retaining his place despite a stiff challenge from Thilan Samaraweera, to bat at number seven. This would leave room for just one of the three.

The squad:

Sanath Jayasuriya (Capt), Marvan Atapattu (Vice Capt), Romesh Kaluwitharana, Russel Arnold, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sanagakkara, Avishka Gunawardene, Chamara Silva, Chaminda Vaas, Dulip Liyanage, Suresh Perera, Nuwan Zoysa, Kumar Dharmasena, Muttiah Muralitharan, Dilhara Fernando