There is a chance Prasanna Jayawardene might not have even played his first Test in over a year had Lahiru Thirimanne been fit in Abu Dhabi, but following his unbeaten 67 in the second innings of that game, Angelo Mathews has outlined the importance of Prasanna's experience in the lower-middle order.
The Sri Lanka XI carries three wicketkeeper-batsmen, as well as Kumar Sangakkara, and Thirimanne's ability to contribute with the ball may have made him a slightly more attractive selection for the first Test. Prasanna will not have his place questioned for the second Test, however. Not only has Thirimanne returned to Sri Lanka, Prasanna has reasserted both his prowess with the gloves and his ability to stablise a top seven that features three batsmen who have played fewer than 10 Tests.
"He gives us the cushioning especially with the gloves in hand," Mathews said. "He is the best wicketkeeper going these days, and also he's very stable when it comes to batting. He has a good technique to survive against good fast bowlers, and he sweeps against the spinners so he upsets their line and length. He's a very good weapon to have in the team."
Among the many casualties of Sri Lanka's barren Test year in 2013, Prasanna played league cricket in England during the summer. He had been left out for Sri Lanka's home Tests against Bangladesh in March, prompting talk that his career was over, but good scores in a domestic first-class triangular tournament in October cleared his route back into the team.
"I was injured during the Boxing Day Test in Australia in 2012, and since then I had no cricket to play. The Zimbabwe Test series was cancelled and the selectors decided to try out youngsters during the Bangladesh series. So I did not get a chance to play Test cricket - not even any first-class cricket. So I went to England and played some league cricket for Woodhall. I did well there. When I came back we had two four-day practice matches and I scored a century in the first match and did well behind the wicket. That's how I got back to the side."
There is increased obligation on Prasanna to maintain a consistent output with the bat, because Dinesh Chandimal and Kaushal Silva are also capable of taking the gloves and Kusal Perera, also a wicketkeeper-batsman, sits in reserve.
"I'm always under pressure when I play for Sri Lanka, but I like that," Prasanna said. "Yes there are few wicketkeepers in the side but I don't see it as additional pressure on me, because if I can do my part well, I won't have any issues."
Prasanna said he was encouraged by the ease with which he settled into his role after his long hiatus. "I was waiting for my chance. It's not easy to play a Test match after one year, especially as a wicketkeeper. It's very difficult to get yourself prepared to play cricket after a long lay-off. I believe I did well in Abu Dhabi."