SL youngsters will need to wait to bat in top order - Ford
Graham Ford, the Sri Lanka coach, has said that his team's young batsmen are in the "apprenticeship stage" of their careers, and so are required to bat down the order though they have the games suited to batting higher up.
"It has been a bit of a concern for both Chandi [Dinesh Chandimal] and [Lahiru] Thirimanne who are bats capable of batting in the higher part of the order, their games are more suited to it," Ford said ahead of Sri Lanka's departure for the UAE, where they will play a full series against Pakistan. "We have current [senior] players filling those slots [up the order], so it has been quite difficult. Still, the selectors have tried to give them opportunities up the order when possible, and that's why it looks like they've been shifted around."
The top three slots in the one-day batting order are occupied by Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara, all three of whom have indicated to the selectors that they will be around till the 2015 World Cup. That means Chandimal and Thirimanne are left with closing out the innings, even though they are not "finishing" batsmen, Ford said. "Perhaps it is not ideally suited to their styles because they are not really the 50-overs finishing type of batsmen. They are more of the batsmen who get in the engine room and set up the innings.
"They'll have to work a little bit on adjusting their style. They are both young players and they have very important roles to play in the future."
However, with Jayawardene missing the two T20s and the five-match ODI series against Pakistan on personal grounds, it gives one of the youngsters an opportunity to partner Tillakaratne Dilshan as opener. It's likely to be a toss-up between Kusal Perera and Dimuth Karunaratne. "They are both very exciting young cricketers," Ford said. "Kusal is tremendous talent. He is such a natural player and plays with such flair. A really good guy to have in the team and he can certainly put the opposition on the back foot pretty quickly.
"Dimuth is more of a traditional type of player. He has done well in the longer form and it's confidence-boosting for Sri Lanka to know that they've got those two options - one, more of a stabilising type of player and the other one who can really take the game to the opposition and put the bowlers under pressure. Depending on the strategy and tactics you can decide on which option one wants to use."
Ford said the absence of fast bowler Shaminda Eranga from the team was not because he has been overlooked, but because he is being monitored carefully with a view to manage his workload for the busy season ahead. Following the series against Pakistan which also comprises three Tests, Sri Lanka travel to Bangladesh for two Tests and a one-day series, followed by the Asia Cup and the World T20, then the IPL and a tour of England for two Tests and a limited-overs series.
"Eranga is very much in the plans. There is a lot of cricket ahead and it's really going to be tough on the fast bowlers. We get to situations when there are five Test matches in a row. He is bowling beautifully and he is fit as can be, but he doesn't fit into the starting ODI line-up in the combination they would put out in the UAE conditions. But come the next World Cup [in Australia-New Zealand], he will be close to [the first eleven] in those sort of conditions. He is a very important part of the Sri Lankan bowling unit."
Ford said Sri Lanka need to further develop their fast-bowling skills. "I don't want to be critical about my group of players but there are few areas of concern. People are working on some of the weaker and softer areas, and at the same time we got a lot of strong areas. We've got to [take advantage] of those strong areas and put the opposition under pressure."