Sri Lanka selectors turn focus on development
Sri Lanka's new selection panel has put the onus firmly on development, as they named two young captains and a Test squad brimful of youth, three months after Sri Lanka fielded their oldest ever Test side in the second home Test against New Zealand. The 20-man squad for the two-Test series against Bangladesh features nine players who are 25 or under - five of whom have never played a Test - and only seven over the age of 30.
The youngest player in the squad is 19-year-old offspinner Tharindu Kaushal, who has only played two first-class matches in his debut domestic season, but has reaped 19 wickets at 8.89, including three five-wicket hauls. Already gaining renown as a big turner of the ball, Kaushal also had an impressive List A season, in which he collected 22 wickets at 18.63. He had been part of Sri Lanka's squad for the home Tests against New Zealand in November, but did not play a match.
Opening batsman Ashen Silva, 22, has been among the most secure young batsmen in the domestic setup since making his first-class debut in 2011, and will be the reserve opener, after Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dimuth Karunaratne. Silva has had a quiet start to the first-class season, after a disappointing end to the List A competition, but had been earmarked for Test duty even 12 months ago, when he played in the tour match against the visiting England side. He made 66 and 0 in that match.
Kithuruwan Vithanage, 21, is a middle-order batsman who has been picked largely on current form, having made 122, 21 not out and 85, in his three first-class innings so far this season. Legspinning allrounder Jeevan Mendis has also been picked on the back of a strong first-class performance, after he made an unbeaten 206 over the weekend. Mendis has become a limited-overs regular for Sri Lanka in the last six months, but had not earned a place in a Test squad before this occasion.
Kushal Perera, 22, who had an impressive first foray into international cricket during the limited-overs leg of the Australia tour, has also been named, and will be the reserve wicketkeeper after Dinesh Chandimal. Dushmantha Chameera, 21, is the only fast bowler under 25 in the squad. He has been marked out for his promising pace, but is yet to make an impact in any format at domestic level.
The selection panel, headed by Sanath Jayasuriya, had expressed a desire to use a sparse 2013 schedule to develop the next generation of cricketers for Sri Lanka. Apart from the series against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka only have a Test series against Zimbabwe in October, before their next major assignment, which will be an away tour against Pakistan beginning in December.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here