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Theekshana and Rajapaksa surprise picks in Sri Lanka's T20 World Cup squad

Dasun Shanaka leads the 15-member contingent

Maheesh Theekshana impressed on debut  •  Ishara S.Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Maheesh Theekshana impressed on debut  •  Ishara S.Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Sri Lanka's new mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana has made the men's T20 World Cup squad, as did top order batters Bhanuka Rajapaksa, and Kamindu Mendis.
Left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama also makes the squad, as does veteran seamer Nuwan Pradeep. There were no major omissions, aside from the likes of Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, and Danushka Gunathilaka, who were banned for a year for breaking Covid protocols on the recent tour of England. Minod Bhanuka, who has kept wicket in Kusal Perera's injury and illness forced absences, has not made the squad either.
Although the ICC deadline for the naming of the World Cup squads was September 10, Sri Lanka Cricket officially named its squad two days later* because it was waiting on the sports minister's approval. Sri Lanka teams must be signed off by the minister, by law.
Theekshana's inclusion follows his sparkling ODI debut, in which he took a Sri Lanka record of four wickets, as his team comfortably defeated South Africa. Theekshana, who bowls a well-disguised carrom ball and googly in addition to his offbreak, had also performed well in the recent domestic T20 invitational league, organised by SLC.
Rajapaksa's inclusion, however, is down more to perceived reputation. A star batter on the school circuit over a decade ago, Rajapaksa has an unremarkable domestic record. In seven T20 international innings so far, he has 140 runs at a strike rate of 130, though he did play one match-winning 77 off 45 against Pakistan in 2019. His ODI returns have also been modest.
Kamindu, meanwhile, makes the team on the back of an excellent T20 invitational tournament, as well as for his all-round ability. Though batting is his primary skill, Kamindu is also known for his fielding, and can bowl finger spin with either arm.
Left-arm spinner Jayawickrama is the only uncapped member of the squad. He had had an outstanding Test debut against Bangladesh, in which he claimed 11 wickets, earlier in the year. Since then, he's played five ODIs and taken five wickets at 35.50. He is an inexperienced T20 player at even domestic level though - he's bowled in only 13 domestic innings, although he has been effective across those games, taking 12 wickets and going at only 5.13 an over. He will be part of a spin contingent that features Wanindu Hasaranga and Theekshana. Akila Dananjaya and legspinner Pulina Tharanga, who impressed in SLC's invitational T20 tournament, are among the reserves.
On the seam-bowling front, Sri Lanka are led by Dushmantha Chameera, with Pradeep, Lahiru Madushanka (who has played only two T20Is) and allrounder Chamika Karunaratne also there. Binura Fernando, along with Lahiru Kumara, are in reserve.
Sri Lanka must play the qualifiers, where they will face Namibia, Ireland, and the Netherlands. They will also play two T20 internationals against Oman in the approach to the World Cup, on October 7 and 9.
*This story was amended at 7:00 AM GMT, September 12, 2021 after the official squad was announced.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf