Sanath Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka's chairman of selectors, has justified the selection of a minister's son in the national squad for the one-off Twenty20 against Bangladesh, after his panel attracted sharp criticism in some parts of the local media. Allrounder Ramith Rambukwella, is the son of media and information minister Keheliya Rambukwella.
"Ramith is a left-hand batsman who bowls right arm offspin, who can clear the boundaries and can hit hard," Jayasuriya said. "He's someone who can play Twenty20 cricket in the middle order, and you need players like that in this format. We're bringing him on as a batting allrounder who can bowl offspin."
Rambukwella, 21, has played club cricket since 2011, but has hit only two half-centuries in 28 innings, across all formats. He has scored 135 runs at an average of 16.87 in List A games and 122 at 17.42 in T20s. He has been more successful with the ball, having taken 10 wickets at an average of 23.60 in List A and eight wickets in T20s at an economy-rate of 7.28. He developed his reputation for big hitting during a successful school cricket career, during which he played for Royal College in Colombo.
"We don't just bring in players who perform, we also bring in players with talent," Jayasuriya said. "There are plenty of players who haven't performed that well in club matches, but have played well in internationals. I've seen a lot of players like that.
"I'm not saying you can get picked even if you don't bat well in domestic cricket, I'm saying if you are talented, or you've made runs in the past, we will give those players an opportunity. We will consider any player. They don't just have to be under 23, even 28 to 30-year olds are considered, and we will try to take those players to the place they need to go."
The selection committee has chosen large squads against Bangladesh, despite the relatively short series, and Jayasuriya said this was done deliberately. The selectors initially picked 22 players for the two-Test series, before trimming the squad to 16 four days before the first Test, and the team for the lone Twenty20 will also be picked from a 16-man squad, which includes five uncapped young players.
"Because it's Bangladesh, we wanted to give the youngsters a chance," Jayasuriya said. "In the 50-over squad also we picked 16 players. The reason for that is we wanted players who we have identified as talents to experience being in the national team and become familiar with the system. It can take some getting used to otherwise. In an overseas tour, we can't have a 16-man squad because it's too expensive, but since it's a local tour, we thought we would give players that opportunity."
Jayasuriya also suggested that Sachithra Senanayake would be given an extended run in the side, after having been named in the ODI squad for the first time since being dropped in mid-2012. "I think we need to give Sachithra an opportunity in T20s, because he hasn't had those kinds of opportunities. That's why we've got him in the one-day squad and now we have him in the T20 squad. "