Sri Lankan under-19 squad embark on Pakistan tour
The Sri Lankan under-19 team, led by Harsha Vithana, is all set to embark on a three-week tour of Pakistan. The squad, which represents the cream of the country's cricketers at this level, will play two four-day Tests and three one-day matches.
The squad will be managed by Ashley de Silva, a former Sri Lankan Test wicketkeeper, and a man well-versed with conditions in Pakistan, having been there on three previous occasions, as Sri Lanka A captain, under-17 team manager, and under-19 selector. de Silva believes the side has the right combination to make an impact on the tour.
"I am confident that it is going to be a successful tour," said de Silva. "That confidence is borne by the fact that the team has been picked with a mixture of experience and talent. At least seven of the 15 players have made tours previously at under-17 and under-19 levels. Some of them are already representing clubs and a few played in the provincial tournament."
One of the experienced hands is Vithana, who was vice-captain to Farveez Maharoof in the under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh last year. A diminutive right-hander from St. Aloysius College in Galle, Vithana turned out for Colts in the 2004-05 Premier competition, scoring his maiden first-class hundred (120), and then followed it up with another century for Southern against Central in the inter-provincial tournament.
Upul Tharanga, a left-handed opening batsman who represents NCC, is another with plenty of experience at this level. The other experienced ones are allrounders Angelo Mathews, who is also the vice-captain, Kosala Kulasekera, wicketkeepers Kaushal Silva (NCC) and Gihan de Silva (Bloomfield), and Chintaka Perera (Saracens), a right-arm fast bowler.
"These players have been picked because the national selectors see them as the ones with the potential to make the grade," said de Silva. "Their success depends on the amount of work they put in. For instance, from the under-19 team that toured England in 1982, at least 10 or 11 players made it to the national Test team."
The tour starts with a Test in Karachi on March 18, and de Silva reiterated that the goal was to win every match. "It has been drilled into their minds that they should play every game positively. Winning is the main objective. With the experience of Charlie [Sumithra Warnakulasuriya, the coach] I am sure we can mould this team into a very effective unit."
Warnakulasuriya, the present CCC coach and one-time coach of the Bangladesh junior team, was a right-handed batsman of immense potential. He was quite unlucky not to make the national team, having to vie for a Test place with batsmen of the calibre of Roy Dias, Ranjan Madugalle and Asanka Gurusinha in the mid-80s.
Squad Harsha Vithana, (capt), Angelo Matthews, Upul Tharanga, Suchitra Serasinghe, Kaushal Silva, Gihan de Silva, Salitha Karunanayake, Lakmal Perera, Charita Jayaweera, Chintaka Perera, Gihan Rupasinghe, Milinda Siriwardena, Kosala Kulasekera, CK Kapugedera, Dimithri Siriwardena.
Officials Ashley de Silva (manager), Sumithra Warnakulasuriya (coach), Ranjith Nanayakkarawasam (physio), HU Prematillake (SLSCA representative)
March 18-21: 1st Test at Steel Mills grounds, Karachi
March 24-27: 2nd Test at Multan Cricket Stadium
March 29:1st one-day match at Multan Cricket Stadium
March 31: 2nd one-day match at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
April 3: 3rd one-day match at National Stadium, Karachi.