A contender for game of the Cricket World Cup has seen Sri Lanka come away with a thrilling 20-run upset win over England at Headingley.
In a country that dwells on chaos and confusion in many aspects, Sri Lanka’s beleaguered cricket selectors have finally put together a squad for the World Cup.
Heated debate on media and social platforms has been dissecting the selected members.
The most significant point of conjecture is the selection of Test skipper Dimuth Karunaratna to lead the side overlooking at least three former limited overs skippers who the selectors perceive will divide the commitment from within.
All of this form a laughable scenario when a realistic view would suggest that all chosen are expected to pull on the national cap with pride and a commitment to making their country proud of their achievements. Not so according to many of this lot, some of whom carry personal agendas attached to their selection.
Obliged to select on current form and experience, the Sri Lankan selectors find their hands tied as they sifted through the raw and experienced talent available to them. The squad put together is expected to gel under Karunaratne, whose success with the Test team in South Africa gave credence for his selection, despite him being stereotyped as a ‘Test cricketer’ with little exposure to the limited overs game and a poor average.
What Karunaranta brings, apart from his astute leadership qualities, is the stability and reinforcement in the batting which has recently not lived up to the modern methods used by the better teams in the world.
This has resultantly seen the Lankans bowled out within the allotted overs on several occasions. He can hold up an end if required and his shot making can be as good as any if he needs to step it up.
There is a wide variety of stroke makers in the selected squad but the axing of players such as former skipper Dinesh Chandimal, justifiably for his underperformance, may yet deprive this fairly raw team of some experience in English conditions.
The return of seasoned campaigners such as former Skipper Angelo Matthews, Jeewan Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep and the injection of Milinda Siriwardene and recall of Jeffry Vandersay will make this team more competitive.
The exclusion of Niroshan Dickwella and Oshada Fernando who were shining lights in New Zealand and South Africa did raise some eyebrows in a selection that is now done and dusted.
While the team is under the pump to put up a reasonable performance and not be deluded by their ability to win the event under such circumstances, it will be a heavier burden to bear on coach Chandika Hathurusinghe and his support staff whose future hinges on what he can deliver with the current squad and how well his mentoring plans are executed.
Sri Lanka goes into this World Cup amid a similar scenario to 1996 when they won the event held in the sub-continent under Arjuna Ranatunge in Lahore, Pakistan.
During a time of unrest in the country, devastating bomb blasts by Tamil Tigers in the capital Colombo accounted for many lives and resulted in Australia and West Indies withdrawing from their games handing the Lankans walk-overs.
The recent horrific events in Sri Lanka will probably help dispel any differences and cement a common bond within the team as they try to re-establish themselves as a force in the game without personal prejudices.
The current team selected appears to be weighted on all-rounders which is heartening after watching the lacklustre performances of the bottom order in many of their recent games which contributed to their sorry showing over the past few years.
All eyes will be riveted on Sri Lanka due to recent events of a horrible Easter Sunday and it’s hoped that a little ray of sunshine will descend on them and enhance their performances in England and Wales.