Surprise omission of the duo against Australia April 18, 2007

Vaas and Murali dropped for tactical reasons

Cricinfo staff

Sri Lanka's most successful opening bowler was one of the two surprise omissions against Australia © AFP

Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan were dropped from the Sri Lankan side that took on Australia in the Super Eights match for tactical reasons, according to Asantha de Mel, Sri Lanka Cricket's chief selector.

Already without pace sensation Lasith Malinga, who was rested due to an ankle injury, Sri Lanka lost to Australia by seven wickets having already qualified for the semi-finals.

"It was a decision, a ploy, to keep our key strike bowlers away from the Australian game. We wanted to bring the players out for the finals with Australia," de Mel told AFP.

de Mel said the Sri Lankans were keen to reserve their best for a possible clash in the final of the World Cup."We did not want to give the Australians a free dress rehearsal. We are saving our armoury for the finals," he said.

These comments contradict that of Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, who told reporters earlier than Vaas and Murali were being rested as the team had already booked a place in the semis. He added that Murali was suffering from a groin injury and had been playing with a strap for the last two or three games.

"Once we realised we had the semi-final spot, I thought we needed to give those guys a break," Jayawardene said after Monday's loss to Australia.

Sri Lanka's teams are selected on tour by a committee that includes one selector, the captain, team manager and coach.

The absent trio of Vaas, Malinga and Murali have taken 41 wickets in the tournament so far including a first-ever "four in four" by Malinga.

The decision produced a lively debate amongst fans in Sri Lanka with morning radio shows clogged with callers either venting their shock or applauding the tour selection committee for being willing to take bold decisions in the interests of the winning the tournament.

Both Vaas and Murali, however, were drafted back into the side to take on Ireland.