Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Hambantota August 22, 2014

World Cup prep priority for Mathews


Sri Lanka have 10 ODIs at home and seven matches in New Zealand before they play the World Cup curtain raiser on February 14. Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka's captain, has expressed his desire to build a team and hone a World Cup strategy starting from the ODI series against Pakistan.

The tournament is now only six months away, but several spots in the Sri Lanka XI are still far from settled. Tillakaratne Dilshan is still firing at the top of the order, but neither Kusal Perera nor Upul Tharanga have made much of their chances to bat alongside him.

Lower down, Lahiru Thirimanne has been excellent in the top three, but far less suited to batting at no. 5 or later. Mathews provides some solidity to Sri Lanka's finishes at no. 6, but Thisara Perera, Ashan Priyanjan and Dinesh Chandimal are yet to cement their spots in the lower middle order.

With Sachithra Senanayake out of the picture, at least temporarily, Sri Lanka have also made changes to their spin attack, with Suraj Randiv and Seekkuge Prasanna returning.

All this will be playing on Mathews' mind, as he looks to firm up his 15 for the World Cup.

"I'll try and use these 17 one-dayers to try and build up my team for the World Cup," Mathews said. "I won't be reluctant to make any changes. I won't be reluctant to experiment things in these ODIs. I'll try and keep it simple, but all in all I'll try to look at a good 15 for the World Cup. I'll try and give opportunities to the players we need to look at. But we need to play to win as well. It's going to be a tough ask, but we'll try and experiment a few things."

The experiments will begin in Hambantota, where Tharanga is the frontrunner to open with Dilshan, but Thirimanne could be an option as well, having opened with great success during Sri Lanka's Asia Cup triumph this year.

In the middle order, Chandimal is coming off a successful List A stretch with the A team, but he has strong competition in Priyanjan, who top scored in the tour-match against Pakistan on Wednesday, which the tourists lost. Mathews was typically tight-lipped on who would play on Saturday.

"Chandimal is in good form, Ashan Priyanjan is in good form, and legspinner Sekkuge Prasanna has also performed well. The idea is that when you get to this 15, everyone should be ready to play. I think whoever plays will make the best use of it, but I can't say for sure that Chandimal will play tomorrow."

Randiv's exclusion from ODIs since 2011 is something of a mystery, given he averages a creditable 30.54 - which is comfortably better than Senanayake's average, for instance, even if Senanayake did more bowling in the Powerplay. A naturally attacking spinner who gets the kind of bounce that may be helpful on Antipodean tracks, Randiv has won his way back to the national fray through sustained excellence in domestic cricket.

"The pitch is a bit damp, so we can't make a decision on our final XI for tomorrow," Mathews said. "But Suraj has earned his place in the squad. He's performed really well when given opportunities in the side games. He's worked really hard to get here so I wish him all the best."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ramesh on August 23, 2014, 16:47 GMT

    Sri Lanka will be lucky if they get rid of Thirimanne...He is no good for one dayers and a selfish player playing for his place. we need some attacking cricketers. It will cost us badly if we keep on playing Thirimanne. Chandi should be good in Aus wickets as he likes pace. Kusal should be included as Tharanga is always a easy wicket for the bowlers.

  • Prashan on August 23, 2014, 4:12 GMT

    @landl47, well well in case you forgot, Sri Lanka have played against Australia in 19 ODIs in Australia since 2008 and won 9 out of them with 1 being the no result last one last year due to rain. We are the only team to have got Australia all out for double digits in Australia in ODI cricket in recent memory. Also, you might recall how Mathews and Malinga posted the world record 9th wicket stand to help us win.

    So all that shows we are among favorites for the world cup. Australia are my predicted winners because they have consistent sloggers like Warner, Finch, Clarke, Bailey, Watson, Faulkner and Stephen Smith who can score 70 or 80 off 50 balls. Yes Aussie bowling with the white ball is not very threatning unlike with the cherry, but their great fielding means Aussies are the favorites. Windies power hitters are not consistent as they suit T20 format.

  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Thirimanne did well as an opener only in Asian conditions. In England he struggled. Only time he succeeded was batting in middle order in last ODI when he could bat at snail pace as asking rate was hardly anything. He is much more weak than Tharanga playing at moving deliveries outside the off stump when it is required to keep the scoreboard moving. If that is not the case, he will just play out time and defend his wicket. Selectors are retaining him because they cannot admit that they have made a second blunder by appointing him as vice captain. First blunder was appointing Chandimal as vice captain. I hope for the sake of future success of the team Thirimanne will fail and disappear from the scene. But what is most likely scenario is that he will score 20-30-40 runs and self announce he is back in form and remain in the team. He is a poor impersonation of future Sanga.

  • Lasith on August 22, 2014, 16:45 GMT

    Sachithra is a far better attacking bowler than Suraj. He should really be a part of playing XI in WC. Tharanga should be the 3rd opener. Good luck Sri Lanka.

  • c on August 22, 2014, 15:41 GMT

    SL needs to open in WC with Dilshan & Chandimal.

    Having said that, it is Mahela who should drop down the order - not because he is not good enough to bat up the order but because he needs to hold the back-end together in AUS. Sanga at 3 shouldn't change while Matthews must come in at 4. Tharanga has an issue with the moving ball with a bit of extr-pace so he should settle for his free-flowing play at 5.

    That gives us Dilshan + Chandimal + Sanga + Matthews + Tharanga + Mahela at the top. NO OPPOSITION TEAM will like to see the SL line up THIS WAY! In a WC played in AUS/NZ conditions it will be counter-productive to have Mahela follow Sanga (based on their past performances in those conditions).

    The balance of the team can include wicket-keeper/batsman Dickwella followed up by 4 bowlers - depending on which bowling line-up SL decides on in each ODI.

  • manjula on August 22, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    SL also keep in mind of grooming bowlers. If you look at the past except 2011, all world cups won by the team with good bowling attack. Even in 2011 WC, India Bowlled better than SL thanks to Yuvi.

  • John on August 22, 2014, 12:40 GMT

    Dilshan will be 38 and Sanga 37 when the world cup takes place. They'll be facing Steyn and Johnson.

    Can they do it one last time?

  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2014, 12:31 GMT

    Sri Lankan best XI: Dilshan Kusal Perera Sangakkara Jayawardena Thiramanne Mathews Perera Kulasekara Herath Mendis Malinga

  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2014, 12:23 GMT

    As a Cricketing and Pakistani supporter I wish srilaknkans best of luck u people r second to none and it will be much easier for u to beat Pakistan in the absence of Juanid and Ajmal

  • Anjana on August 22, 2014, 11:49 GMT

    Judging by the previous performances, If any subcontinent team has a chance in 2015 WC, it is Sri Lanka, IF THE PROPER SELECTION TAKES PLACE.

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