Veteran fast bowler Lasith Malinga is set to make his comeback to international cricket following his year-long injury layoff as he has been deemed fit to be a part of Sri Lanka’s T20I squad for the tour of Australia. Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva are the notable omissions from the squad that took on South Africa recently.
The squad also sees the return of left-handed batsman Milinda Siriwardane and the experienced Chamara Kapugedera. Dasun Shanaka has also found a place in the side following his consistent run in the domestic matches. Dilshan Munaweera, who last played for Sri Lanka in 2013, has also made a comeback into the squad.
Upul Tharanga, the stand-in skipper for Angelo Mathews, will once again lead the team in Australia while Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka’s vice-captain, has no place in the squad. Dinesh Chandimal’s poor run of form in South Africa resulted in him being axed for the fourth ODI against the host nation and his average of 18 at the strike rate of 103.29 does him no favours in coercing the selectors to find him a spot in the squad.
Asela Gunaratne, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Kulasekara, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lakshan Sandakan, Niroshan Dickwella and Sachith Pathirana have all retained their places in the squad. Vikum Sanjaya, who was a part of the Test squad and the ODI squad in South Africa, has also been picked.
RETAINED: Asela Gunaratne, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Kulasekara, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lakshan Sandakan, Niroshan Dickwella, Sachith Pathirana, Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga
IN: Dilshan Munaweera, Milinda Siriwardane, Chamara Kapugedera, Dasun Shanaka, Lasith Malinga, Vikum Sanjaya
OUT: Suranga Lakmal, Thikshila de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva
INJURED: Angelo Mathews, Dhanushka Gunathilaka, Nuwan Pradeep
Niroshan Dickwella’s impressive returns in limited overs cricket seem to have cemented his spot at the top of the order and Upul Tharanga, after having struck a century in the fourth ODI, can be expected to partner him. Kusal Mendis, despite not having performed well in T20Is, gets another opportunity owing to the promise he has shown in both Tests and ODIs. He is likely to continue batting at number three after being pushed down to number six in his last T20I.
Chamara Kapugedera can be expected to bat at number four and Sri Lanka might go with both Dasun Shanaka and Milinda Siriwardane to fill in two of the remaining three spots. Asela Gunaratne seems to have won the long-term confidence of the selectors and hence, can be expected to bat at either number six or seven.
Dilshan Munaweera might also get a look in at the expense of either Shanaka or Siriwardane. Seekkuge Prasanna, following his match-winning knock against South Africa, and Lakshan Sandakan, due to his minatory bowling in both T20Is and ODIs in South Africa, might make it to the final XI. Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara are certain to fill in the fast-bowlers’ spot.
Even though Sri Lanka would not be facing a full-strength Australian side, and the relevancy and the scheduling of the series have come into question, the series is consequential for the foreseeable future of Sri Lanka since it marks the return of Lasith Malinga.
Lasith Malinga was supposed to return for the shorter-format leg of the South African tour but a dengue infection to him ruled out that possibility. With Sri Lanka’s future in cricket uncertain and the bowling finding it increasingly difficult to contain batsmen, all eyes would be on Malinga. His pace and accuracy would definitely come under the radar and island national would be desperate see him back at his best.
Sri Lanka is set to play the first match of the series on the 17th of February with a practice match scheduled to be played on the 15th of February.
SQUAD: Upul Tharanga (C), Niroshan Dickwella (WK), Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Dasun Shanaka, Dilshan Munaweera, Milinda Siriwardane, Asela Gunaratne, Seekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga, Sachith Pathirana, Isuru Udana, Vikum Sanjaya