Dilhara Lokuhettige (also known as Lokuhettige Danushka Dilhara) is the only new face in the 14-member Sri Lanka A squad to take on West Indies A in two unofficial Tests at Dambulla and Kandy starting on June 23.
Lokuhettige is a hard-hitting right-hand batsman and effective right-arm medium-pace bowler who came to prominence when he scored the fastest fifty of last season, off just 22 balls, for Moors against Air Force on his home ground at Braybrooke Place.
Lokuhettige, 24, won selection for some consistent performance over the past few seasons. Since making his first-class debut in 2000-01, he has scored 1682 runs at 27.76, with one century and four fifties, and also captured 134 wickets (27.51) from 58 matches. He started off with Antonians SC and then moved to Galle CC before joining Moors in 2003-04. "We think that he has the potential to develop into a good allrounder," said Lalith Kaluperuma, the chairman of selectors. "That is why we have picked him."
The rest of the squad remains unchanged from the one that played in the four unofficial Tests against England A and Pakistan A, with the exception of Shantha Kalavitigoda, Thilan Thushara, Anushka Polonowita and Thilina Kandamby. The last three failed to make it to the 25-member pool owing to poor performances in the last series, while Kalavitigoda has been omitted because of an injured shoulder. "Kalavitigoda is nursing a shoulder-muscle injury," said Kaluperuma. "He has not recovered 100%. We decided to rest him to give him time to recover to full fitness."
Kalavitagoda, the right-hand opener, made an instant impact in the only match he played against England A, scoring an impressive 83, a knock which put him on the flight to New Zealand where he went onto make his Test debut at the age of 27. Kaluperuma also said that his committee decided to stick by several tried and tested players who had appeared for Sri Lanka in order to give them an opportunity to regain their places in the national side ahead of the West Indies series that will follow the A tour.
He added that for the two-day practice game against West Indies A on June 19-20 at Moratuwa, the selectors would concentrate on picking players from the Under-19 team who are members of the 25-member A-team pool, namely Harsha Vithana, Upul Tharanga, Chamara Kapugedera, Charitha Jayaweera and Gihan de Silva. "We don't want these players who have been identified as future talent to be thrown into the deep end at once," said Kaluperuma. " We want them to come up gradually and make the grade."
The 25-member A-team squad is currently under training under the watchful eyes of coach Stan Nel and the new manager Anura Tennekoon, the former Sri Lankan captain.
Sri Lanka A squad
Russel Arnold (capt), Prasanna Jayawardene (vice-capt, wk), Avishka Gunawardena, Ian Daniel, Michael Vandort, Jehan Mubarak, Gayan Wijekoon, Malinga Bandara, Suraj Mohamed, Dilhara Fernando, Ruchira Perera, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Sajeewa Weerakoon, Malintha Gajanayake. Standby players: Upul Tharanga, Nandika Ranjith, Priyankara Silva, Gihan de Silva.