Thirimanne, Siriwardana, Vandersay picked in World Cup squad

Sri Lanka news April 18, 2019

Batsman Lahiru Thirimanne, spin-bowling allrounders Milinda Siriwardana and Jeevan Mendis, and legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay have all been picked in Sri Lanka's World Cup squad, despite not having played an ODI since at least 2017.

Not selected, meanwhile, are wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella, offspinner Akila Dananjaya, openers Danushka Gunathilaka and Upul Tharanga, as well as Dinesh Chandimal, who was captain of the ODI team as recently as October.

The squad also features 21-year-old opening batsman Avishka Fernando, despite his modest tour of South Africa last month. Nuwan Pradeep, who has been an infrequent presence in the ODI squad owing partly to injury, has been chosen as well.

Several players have made it into the squad on the strength of their performances in the week-long Super Four Provincial Tournament played at the start of the month. Jeevan Mendis, for example, took six wickets in three matches, and scored an unbeaten half-century. Thirimanne was the tournament's second-highest scorer, behind Angelo Mathews, having struck a century and an 82 through the course of the week.

Vandersay, meanwhile, had taken five wickets in the tournament, but has largely been picked on the back of encouraging performances in T20 internationals. He is the only specialist spinner in the squad.

Siriwardana's inclusion, which was perhaps the biggest surprise of the squad announcement, was down to his versatility, chief selector Ashantha de Mel said. "To balance the side, the batsman coming in at No. 6 has to be able to bowl. We went with someone who has a bit of experience in that role."

Of the omissions, Dickwella and Akila are perhaps the most significant, with both players having featured in Sri Lanka's recent ODIs in South Africa. Dickwella's omission is down to loss of form - he had collected three single-figure scores against South Africa, and had failed to breach 20 in four innings in the provincial tournament. Akila's, meanwhile, is down to decreased effectiveness since remodeling his bowling action.

"We can't take two offspinners to the World Cup, and right now we are considering Dhananjaya de Silva as an offspinner," de Mel said. "Since Akila remodeled his action, Dhananjaya gets wickets at a much better strike rate than Akila, and he also turns the ball more than Akila."

On the fast bowling front, Sri Lanka have opted for experience over promise, omitting the likes of Dushmantha Chameera and Kasun Rajitha in favour of Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal. Although not in the 15-man squad, Rajitha has been named as one of four standby players, alongside allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga, and batsmen Oshada Fernando and Angelo Perera.

The team will, of course, have a brand new captain for the tournament, in Dimuth Karunaratne, who himself has not played an ODI since the 2015 World Cup. According to de Mel, it was Karunaratne's leadership in the Test series victory in South Africa that prompted the selection committee to remove Lasith Malinga and make the captaincy change.

"We saw in South Africa how Dimuth was able to unite the team, and have everyone playing together. That was what was important to us at this time. I spoke to Malinga yesterday and explained to him that as selectors we didn't have any issues with his captaincy, but that although he was playing well, the other 10 players weren't behind him. That's not his fault, but that was the situation we had."

Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Isuru Udana, Milinda Siriwardana, Avishka Fernando, Jeevan Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal

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