'Baffled' Jayaratne backs suspended Kusal
Kusal Perera had admitted to taking medications recently but felt he had not consumed a banned substance upon receiving the news he had failed a drug test, interim coach Jerome Jayaratne has said. Perera was provisionally suspended on Monday evening, two days out from the team's first Test against New Zealand, in Dunedin. The positive sample had been given during Pakistan's tour of Sri Lanka in June and July.
Jayaratne said Perera had "taken some medication for a bite on his foot", but neither coach nor player believed this medication to have been on the ICC's banned list of substances. "We had a chat last night once the information filtered through from the ICC," Jayaratne said. "Kusal feels he has not taken any form of drugs or any form of medication to that effect - so it's left to be seen how it will be investigated."
The ICC routinely educates players and support staff about banned substances, which includes many common medications in addition to specific performance-enhancing drugs. It is considered good practice for players to check the legality of medications before using them, Jayaratne said.
"ICC runs the tests randomly and the players have been educated. The physiotherapists in Sri Lanka have been educated. The list of banned drugs keeps changing and things get added on. The players have been advised to keep the physiotherapists informed before they take any kind of medication - even if it's just a Panadol. We'll wait and see what happens. We're all baffled at the moment."
Jayaratne said Perera's suspension constituted a "massive dent" to Sri Lanka's hopes in the series. "I think it will be quite a big impact because he was our main wicketkeeper and is a dashing No.7 batsman who can turn games around. The news came through just a day and a half before the Test. We're trying to regroup. Dinesh Chandimal will take the gloves. We have no choice but to move on."
Perera is the second player to be sent home, after Dhammika Prasad sustained a tour-ending back injury during the practice match in Queenstown. Sri Lanka have flown in left-arm seamer Vishwa Fernando to replace Prasad, and are in the process of bringing opener Kaushal Silva to New Zealand, in place of Perera.
"It's a team in transition, so it's not the ideal situation to lose two players that we'd kept a lot of hopes in," Jayaratne said. "Prasad is our spearhead in the fast bowling department. Kusal plays a role in the ODIs and T20s and the Tests as well.
"Someone has to put their hands up and do something extraordinary from an ordinary situation. We've got about five or six players who haven't played a handful of Tests even put together. It's going to be tough with the weather conditions as well. They've really got to put their hands up and show what they are made of."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando