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June 29, 2009
Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lankan allrounder who impressed during the ICC World Twenty20, is among three new players named in a 15-man squad for the first Test against Pakistan. Mathews has been picked ahead of Chaminda Vaas, while wicketkeeper-batsman Kaushal Silva and fast bowler Suranga Lakmal are also in the squad for the Galle Test starting July 4.
Silva has been included in place of the injured Prasanna Jayawardene, ruled out of the first Test with a damaged finger sustained at practice, while young Lakmal replaces erratic fast bowler Dilhara Fernando. Middle-order batsman Chamara Kapugedera has been recalled after being overlooked for the World Twenty20.
The future of Vaas, 35, looks bleak. He figured in the aborted Test series in Pakistan in March this year but the national selectors have gambled with 22-year-old Lakmal despite a first-class career tally of 57 wickets at 29.29 in 16 matches. Silva, 23, has been a regular run-getter in the domestic circuit and has put up consistent performances with the A team.
Whether he get an opportunity to make his Test debut in Galle will solely depend on how new captain Kumar Sangakkara views his team's balance. Sangakkara himself is an established Test wicketkeeper and it was the emergence of Prasanna Jayawardene that allowed him to forego that position and concentrate on his batting at No. 3.
"In the Sri Lankan context of cricket a specialist wicketkeeper is important but then again we have two other wicketkeepers in the squad, myself and Tillakaratne Dilshan," said Sangakkara. "No other team has that luxury.
"I do believe that the best wicketkeeper for the job is important. But at the same time just being a sole wicketkeeper is not going to be enough going forward from here. A wicketkeeper has the responsibility to develop his batting and become a true run scoring member of the seven batsmen.
"It's a great blow not to have Prasanna. He's done a fantastic job with the side and he's done really well with the bat. Kaushal Silva has done very well for SSC and for the A side in his first-class career. We still have to wait and see how we can manage and how best to balance the team to give us the best advantage to go and win the Test match. It could be a case of Kaushal making a debut or myself or Dilshan taking up the gloves."
Sri Lanka squad: Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Malinda Warnapura, Tharanga Paranavitana, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Angelo Mathews, Chamara Kapugedera, Muthiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Thushara, Nuwan Kulasekera, Dhammika Prasad, Kaushal Silva, Suranga Lakmal.