In a late move Sri Lanka have replaced injured left-arm spinner Rangana Herath with uncapped 22-year old offspinner Tharindu Kaushal in their squad ahead of the quarter-final against South Africa on Wednesday. The ICC approval for the replacement came about two hours before the toss in Sydney, but even before that team manager Michael de Zoysa said Kaushal "could and should be in contention" for the match.
Sri Lanka had given Herath as much time as possible to recover from the cut he sustained to his spinning finger against England on March 1. However, he was not able to bowl more than two overs in the nets on Tuesday, and is expected to be unfit for another week. Though Herath cannot be reinstated in the squad if Kaushal replaces him, he will stay with the team while he recovers in case a vacancy arises through injury to another player.
"He could come back in if someone else gets injured," de Zoysa said. "You never know, these things keep happening to our team."
Herath's exit from the squad is a significant blow to an attack that has relied on his control during the middle overs. However, Kaushal has been training with the squad in Australia for more than a week, effectively as cover for Herath. Though he is a relative unknown at international level, Kaushal has carved out an exceptional domestic record in his three seasons at senior level. In 29 List A matches, he has 49 wickets at 18.34. He has also been in impressive form in the past few weeks, claiming 47 wickets at 18.82 in the Premier League tournament - Sri Lanka's first-class competition.
On Tuesday, the eve of the match, Angelo Mathews had said Kaushal's inclusion for the quarter-final was "an option" for Sri Lanka, but they also have legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna and offspinner Sachithra Senanayake in the squad. However, it would appear strange that Sri Lanka would enter a third specialist spinner into the squad unless he has a chance of playing, given batsman Kithuruwan Vithanage is also traveling with the squad, and could have been drafted in for Herath.
Herath is the fifth Sri Lanka player to sustain an injury and be replaced from the original squad. Seamer Dhammika Prasad, batsmen Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal, and legspinning allrounder Jeevan Mendis had all been forced out through injury during the campaign. Herath played four matches in the tournament.
0120 GMT The story was updated to reflect the ICC's approval of Tharindu Kaushal as Rangana Herath's replacement