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Surprises in Sri Lanka’s T20 Squad for South Africa

January 20, 2017

Michael Roberts

As a desultory observer of Sri Lankan cricket from afar in Australia and without any observations of the local cricket scene, the list of players in the Sri Lankan Squad for the short-format games in South Africa was (is) full of surprises. Let me spell out my initial thoughts before proceeding to more considered commentary — albeit in a rambling manner.

thisara-perera-cwc-celeb_3270994 nuwan-kulasekara

  • With a name to outlast Vaas, Narangoda Liyanaarachchilage Thisara Chirantha Perera,  Where is he? Virtually the only Sri Lankan player with an IPL spot and now a place with the Renegades of Melbourne in the Big Bash League in Australia … but out in the cold. (A)
  • Jeffrey Vandersay? My recollections of his good performances in India or Bangladesh suggest that he can be a match-winner in a short format T20 where many leg-spinners seem to fare well. So why is he not in the squad? (B)
  • Are Sachith Pathirana, Lakshan Sandakan and Seekkuge Prasanna our best spin-options? Placing Sachitra Senanayake, Milinda Siriwardena, Dilruwan Perera, Amith Aponso and Shehan Jayasuriya on the outer fringes? [C]
  • The return of Nuwan Kulasekera and Isuru Udana after spells in the wilderness and seeming retirement in Kulasekera’s case. The reasons are clarified by Andrew Fernando: “Kulasekara’s return to the T20 squad was expected, after he had appeared to reclaim some of his old rhythm and inswing in the recent ODI tri-series against Zimbabwe;” while Udana is reckoned to be a “-a T20 specialist with a number of slower balls” in his repertoire. [D]
  • Yes, Kusal Janith Perera has shown a crazy unreliability in recent months in all formats of cricket and his explosive power is too infrequent to warrant persistence with him even in the shot formats. A kick in the backside … or rather several kicks are his due. [E] Indeed, after composing this note I find that Andrew Fernando has said this: “In four ODI innings during the Zimbabwe tri-series, he had scores of 21, 4, 7 and 14.”

With those initial thoughts, I embarked on research into T20 statistics to test my thinking — though aware that the 50-over stats should also be brought into the picture and attentive to the background fact that little domestic T20 cricket occurs in the island. In short, the statistics provide an incomplete picture –further compounded by the fact that some players have been on the scene for only a few years in contrast to the oldies.

I concentrated on the bowling department and the spinners in particular. In my assessment a fast-bowling squad of Lakmal, Pradeep, Kumara and Chameera would be highly problematic because one needs some bowlers who can contribute with the bat. Kulasekara and Udana provide this capacity and Udana is also a leftie. I was impressed by him way back when he toured England and it seems that he has – now aged 28/29 — recovered some form. His overall 20/20 bowling figures (domestic and representative) read as 1366 balls, for 77 wkts at 24.18 av; 8.06 e/r and 18.0 s/r.

To place him in perspective let me note Nuwan Kulasekara’s bowling figures in both short-form games over the years: in 20/20 he has bowled 2081 balls for 2495 runs and taken 111 wkts to make up an average of 22.47; e/r of 7.19 and s/r of 18.7. Kulasekara’s Overall ODI statistics are as follows: 176 innings, 8050 balls for 6519 runs and 194 wkts –so that his average = 33.60; e/r = 4.85 and s/r = 41.4.

I note here that these four medium pace bowlers will be supported by the medium pace of two allrounders: Asela Gunaratne and the bolter Thikshil de Silva. Gunaratne was a great success as a batsman and an useful bowling addition in Zimbabwe, but he will face a much sterner test in South Africa. Thiksil De Silva has ousted the other rookie in recent years, Dasun Shanaka who had one outstanding spell of bowling on one occasion but had limited success thereafter with both bat and ball. Unlike Shanaka (6.0 ft) however, de Silva stands only 5ft six inches. Let us hope he can skid the ball and creep under bats!

There must be some indside story about Thisara Perera’s role in the shorter format. The fact that he has chosen to retire from the Test arena at the tender age of 26 may be a factor behind his exclusions; but one cannot rule out local politics.

ssachith-p Pathirana expresses joy–Cricinfo

It is the stats for the spinners that threw up surprises and indicated why Vandersay may have been omitted, why Pathirana has weight behind him and why one must entertain  doubts about Sandakan’s capacity at this point in his career.. That exploration demands a separate essay.

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