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ESPNcricinfo picks out the five most likely candidates to replace the retiring Tillakaratne Dilshan in Tests
Andrew Fidel Fernando
October 11, 2013
In a year in which regeneration has already been Sri Lanka's focus, Tillakaratne Dilshan's Test retirement clears the way for yet another young batsman to try his hand at the top level. Sri Lanka begin a sequence of 10 away Tests in December, and Dilshan's timely exit will allow his replacement the opportunity to cut his teeth against Pakistan and Bangladesh, before the team travels to the UK in the next English summer.
The Test opening position has been a source of some consternation for Sri Lanka in recent years, however, and even Dimuth Karunaratne, who occupies the other opening spot, is yet to turn his potential into sustained results. There are several contenders for Dilshan's place in the domestic sphere, but given the current selection panel's track record of replacing the old with the young and promising, ESPNcricinfo has picked out the five likeliest candidates.
(27-years-old, 8423 first-class runs at 48.97, 27 centuries)
The current frontrunner is not an opener by trade, but Sri Lanka has manufactured top-order men out of middle-order performers before, and selectors sent out a hint that they are already thinking of Kaushal in that role when they asked him to open for the Board XI in the first four-day match of the 2013-14 season. What Kaushal has going for him is extraordinary domestic form. He was the top-scorer in the first-class competition last year, and has been unstoppable for Sri Lanka A since then, hitting four hundreds in as many first-class matches to average 80.33 for the year. He is the oldest of the candidates, and having been consistent over several first-class seasons, he is also the most stable choice.
(23-years-old, 2460 first-class runs at 47.30, 7 centuries)
Something of a wildcard, but if there was any selector to whom the prospect of pairing two aggressive left-handers at the top of the order seemed tempting, it is Sanath Jayasuriya. There is no doubting the enormous talent that Kusal possesses, but although he took international limited-overs cricket by storm in the first few months of 2013, his weaknesses were soon worked out and he had a paltry run through the middle of the year. He is coming into form again in first-class cricket however, and has proven he can play the big innings in long-form cricket as well, when he hit Sri Lanka's first-ever domestic triple hundred earlier this year.
(22-years-old, 1423 first-class runs, 3 centuries)
Yet another bruising left-handed batsman, but although he doesn't have the weight of runs some of the other candidates have accumulated, he possesses a valuable second suit. In addition to creating huge domestic buzz with his batting, Jayasuriya bowls canny offspin, having taken 41 wickets at an average of less than 30 apiece - making him something of a like-for-like replacement for Dilshan. He is unlikely to be on the selectors' minds when they choose the squads for tours of the UAE or Bangladesh, but if Jayasuriya can improve on an already formidable first-class record in the Premier League Tournament next year, he will put significant pressure on the incumbents.
(24-years-old, 3668 first-class runs at 41.21, 10 centuries)
Thirimanne began his Test career as an opener before being moved to the middle order, but if Sri Lanka cannot unearth a consistent opening batsman in the next few months, the selectors may ask him to reclaim his old spot. Possessed of a thoughtful approach to the game, he is being groomed to inherit Kumar Sangakkara's No. 3 spot, but a tight defensive technique and calmness under fire could make him a good opening foil for Karunaratne as well.
(22-years-old, 2241 runs at 40.74, 4 centuries)
Jayasundera is perhaps the furthest from a Test spot at present, but Sanath Jayasuriya has repeatedly talked about him as a future prospect, and he also has the potential to put significant pressure on whoever replaces Dilshan in the short term. Another left-hander, but one who is not as well-geared for attack, Jayasundera has played for Sri Lanka's Under-19s team and scored heavily for the Under-23s side as well.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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