Topsy turvy Sri Lanka head off to the ICC Champions Trophy with renewed vigour. The return of Angelo Matthews and Lasith Malinga will help them address their indifferent recent form.
Held in all formats at home by rejuvenated Bangladesh recently, the pride of the Lion has been dented somewhat. Everyone knows when that happens the Lankans usually rise and produce the unthinkable.
A case in point of that was when the Australians ridiculed and harassed Arjuna Ranatunge’s 1995 touring team in a controversy-riddled tour only to face a fired-up Lankan side in the World Cup final showdown in Lahore. They were comprehensively beaten and scores were settled.
The Lankans are a proud nation when challenged and it is at times like this when their fortunes are at a low ebb that they respond in telling fashion.
England has been a happy hunting ground for the island nation and although not rated with teams such as India, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand – whose recent form suggests that they are pre-tournament favourites – expect the unexpected from Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, who loom as the dark horses in this episode.
Bangladesh will also figure in some upsets.
The return of Matthews and Malinga together with revitalised Upul Tharanga and Thisara Perera with recalled Nuwan Kulesekera and discarded out-of-form Dinesh Chandimal gives Sri Lanka that vital balance in experience. The Sri Lanka selectors have kept their promise of not including some talented youngsters who do not fill the vital criteria in fielding which has been a recent let down.
Sri Lanka’s newly appointed team manager Asanka Gurusinha was recently quoted as saying that emphasis for selection to this tournament would be explicitly placed on fielding and not simply as a batsman or bowler. But that assertion would have to be backed by winning totals and the ability to defend reasonable scores against the world’s best.
Mathews will resume the captaincy after missing the ODI series against South Africa, the tour of Australia and the home series against Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka Cricket announced a 15-member squad led by Mathews, who cut short his tour of South Africa after twisting his ankle in January.
“I am 100 per cent fit now and I also hope to be able to bowl,” said the allrounder who will turn 30 on June 2, a day after the ODI tournament begins in England.
He said he was “very happy” with the squad chosen for the tournament and hopeful of making a good impression.
“I have got the best squad.” he said. “We can do well with this team. I am very happy. I have a lot of confidence. We have an opportunity to bring an ICC trophy to Sri Lanka.”
Chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya said Malinga was also being included in the squad after nearly two years and was fully fit to play in England.
“All the other players will be able to benefit from Malinga’s experience,” Jayasuriya said.
“He has said in writing that he is fully fit to play.”
The Sri Lankans are expected to commence training at a camp in Kandy on May 10 and leave for England eight days later.
SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala said the Pallekelle stadium on the outskirts of Kandy was the best local venue to replicate England conditions.
Sri Lanka will play two ODIs against Scotland before they face Australia and New Zealand in the tournament warm-up matches.
Sri Lanka squad: Angelo Mathews (c), Upul Tharanga (vc), Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Nuwan Kulasekera, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan and Seekkuge Prasanna.