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Sri Lanka have finalised their 15-member squad for the men's T20 World Cup, making four changes to the one they had announced a month ago. The injured Lahiru Madushanka and Nuwan Pradeep, and the pair of Praveen Jayawickrama and Kamindu Mendis have been left out, and Pathum Nissanka, Akila Dananjaya, Lahiru Kumara and Binura Fernando have been brought in.
Offspinner Dananjaya was an integral part of Sri Lanka's T20I set up a few years ago, his array of variations making him a go-to bowler for the team, even in the powerplay period. However, he's been a shadow of his former self since having to remodel his action; in nine T20Is in 2021, he has picked up just six wickets at an average of 48.16 - by far the least effective calendar year in his career.
That said, it is likely Sri Lanka have chosen Dananjaya for his experience. While the team's spin contingent is spearheaded by Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana has just three T20Is under his belt. With Jayawickrama also relatively untested at the highest level, any injury to Hasaranga would have left Sri Lanka very light on spinners with big-game experience.
Nissanka was among the five players added to the squad ten days ago. His inclusion, meanwhile, will leave the player missing out - Kamindu Mendis - feeling possibly a little hard done by. Despite having failed to impress in his limited international forays, Kamindu was the second-highest scorer in the recent SLC Invitational T20 tournament. He is also a former Under-19 captain and his ambidextrous bowling adds an interesting aspect to the attack. The other four who were named then - Minod Bhanuka, Ashen Bandara, Lakshan Sandakan and Ramesh Mendis - did not make the cut.
What Nissanka - who is thought of highly by the coaching staff - does offer, though, is a steadying presence in what has proved to be a very unstable batting line-up in recent times, even if he has yet to make his mark in white-ball cricket.
The rest of the changes are like for like, with the pace pairing of Kumara and Binura replacing the injured Pradeep and Madushanka. While it was known for a while that Madushanka would be unavailable, Pradeep's was a tough blow with the seamer picking up a hamstring injury in the first T20 against Oman, subsequently ruling him out for four weeks.
In his place, the six-and-a-half-foot tall Binura, who has long been on the fringes, would be hoping to finally make his mark, though it is in the returning Kumara that Sri Lanka would be pinning a lot of their hopes. In Kumara, and the outstanding Dushmantha Chameera, Sri Lanka have two quicks capable of hitting high speeds, and if the team is to succeed at the World Cup much will depend on their continued fitness, and form.
Sri Lanka's batting will be headed by Kusal Perera, who is just returning from injury. He will lead a line-up containing a blend of youth and experience, with the likes of Dhananjaya de Silva and former captain Dinesh Chandimal, as well as Dasun Shanaka, accompanying the more youthful Avishka Fernando, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Nissanka, and the explosive Chamika Karunaratne.
Sri Lanka begin their World Cup campaign in the first round, first against Namibia on October 18, before facing Ireland and Netherlands on October 20 and 22.