Jayasuriya welcomes return of De Silva
Captain Sanath Jayasuriya has welcome the recall of veteran batsman Aravinda de Silva, as Sri Lanka start their final run in to the 2003 World Cup with a three-match series against Bangladesh starting Sunday.
Sri Lanka have chopped and changed their side over the past two years, desperately trying to identify the correct combination at the top of the order, a fast bowling all-rounder and a reliable number six batsman.
And with the 2003 World Cup now just seven months away, the selectors have lost faith in younger players, turning back to De Silva, 36, to solidify the middle order.
"He is an experienced player, who knows how to play in the middle order," remarked Jayasuriya, after the team's final practice session. "He deserves this chance and I am sure that he will perform.
"We haven't had a regular number six batsmen for some time. We have tried out a few youngsters but they failed to perform up the mark during the past couple of years."
De Silva, accustomed to batting at four throughout most of his career, is looking forward to the challenge of playing at the pivotal number six position.
"It's a position that I will have to adjust to, perhaps changing the style of my batting," he revealed. "It's a tricky position - sometimes you will need to accelerate, whilst at other times you have to dig the side out of trouble."
Already Sri Lanka's most capped player in limited overs cricket having played a staggering 275 games, De Silva is taking his second coming one step at a time.
"I don't want to think long term - I will take it tour by tour," he said. "As soon as I feel that I am going to be a burden on the side, I wouldn't want to stay any longer."
With De Silva in and pinch-hitting opener Romesh Kaluwithrana out, Jayasuriya will open the innings with Marvan Atapattu, with Kumar Sangakkara batting at three.
Sangakkara has already played 49 one-day matches, but has been shunted up and down the order so much that it's unsurprising he averages a disappointing 24.62.
Jayasuriya now expects him to bed down at number three: "We have been trying things out, playing him up and down the order, but we have a lot of faith in him and want him to play in our one-day team all the time, as he's a key player."
The search for a fast bowling all-rounder - deemed crucial to the side's chances in South Africa - has taken plenty of wrong turns in the past year, so the management will be praying that in Hasantha Fernando they have unearthed the final piece in the jigsaw.
Certainly, the 22-year-old's domestic statistics, in his virgin year of first class cricket, are impressive. He averaged 35 with bat, hitting three hundreds, as well as taking four wickets a game with his medium pace.
He is set to play on Sunday as part of a four pronged pace attack, including Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando and Buddika Fernando.
Bangladesh are yet to finalise their selection, although they are expected to pack the side full of all-rounders.
Former captain Naimur Rahman, all-rounder Khaled Mahmud and left-arm spinner Mohammad Raffique have all been added to the squad, whilst Aminul Islam, Akram Khan, Alamgir Kabir and Enamul Haque have returned home.
Sanath Jayasuriya (Capt), Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jaywardene, Russel Arnold, Aravinda de Silva, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Chandana, Hasantha Fernando, Chaminda Vaas, Chamila Lakshitha Gamage, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Charitha Buddika Fernando
Khaled Mashud (capt), Habibul Bashar, Al Sahariar, Ehsanul Haque, Hannan Sarkar, Mohamed Ashraful, Fahim Muntasir, Manjural Islam, Talha Jubair, Tushar Imran, Khaled Mahmud, Naimur Rahman, Mohammad Raffique, Tapash Baisya, Alok Kapali