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Andrew Fidel Fernando
April 24, 2014
Sri Lanka chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya made a resounding endorsement of Lahiru Thirimanne's temperament and talent, one day after his panel had appointed the 24-year-old batsman vice-captain across all formats. Thirimanne replaced Dinesh Chandimal as vice-captain of the ODI and Test teams, and Jayasuriya confirmed Chandimal's removal from those positions, and from the T20 captaincy, had been driven by their desire to see him focus on snapping a poor run of returns with the bat.
Jayasuriya admitted Chandimal had been overburdened by the captaincy, but was certain Thirimanne would have a firmer handle on his own performance as he took on more responsibility.
"Thirimanne is a different kind of a player," he said. "He has batted all over the place and performed when we have given him the opportunity. When somebody is injured in the top of the order, he opens. When someone is being rested at No. 3 or 4, he bats there. In some situations, he bats at No. 5 or 6. He has the mentality to adjust to any situation. Everyone has seen that. There's no doubt that he can take the vice-captaincy as just another experience, so he's the best choice. His technique, the way he works - everything up to date is very good."
Though Thirimanne has played fewer matches than Chandimal in the past year, he has made the more telling contributions, particularly in limited-overs cricket. He had struck two hundreds in the Asia Cup - including one in the final - and had also made an important 44 in the World T20 semi-final against West Indies.
"Thirimanne has been able to adapt his game to Tests, ODIs and T20s, and bat like an experienced player under pressure," Jayasuriya said. "There are very few players like that."
Jayasuriya said he had been in contact with Chandimal when he left himself out of the side for the World T20 semi-final and final in Mirpur but, ultimately, Chandimal's inability to make meaningful contributions had sealed his demotion.
"We had talked at length as a selection committee before making that decision. We had tried to get the most out of him as a captain with a long-term view, but after some time passed, we realised that bearing the captaincy had put some added pressure on him. We knew his talent, so we gave him the support to keep leading the team. We thought he would come out of that pressure at some stage. But unfortunately he wasn't able to do that, so we decided, with his consent, that we would give Lasith Malinga the captaincy during the World T20.
"I talked with Chandimal in Bangladesh, and the decision to relieve him of leadership was taken in light of those conversations. I think he had some idea of what we were about to do. As a selection committee we'll need to sit with him soon and talk about the future."
Chandimal had been perhaps the most promising young batsman upon his arrival in the national side, and had had encouraging innings in ODIs, as well as Tests, in his first 12 months. Though his Test form has largely been satisfactory, it has been his decline in limited-overs matches that has been most worrisome for the selectors.
"We need to take pressure off him and help him play like he used to," Jayasuriya said.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernandoFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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