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Rex Clementine’s Appraisal of World Cup Selections

April 19, 2019

Rex Clementine, Island, 19 April 2019, with the title SLC justify Malinga axing”

Sri Lanka Cricket big wigs justified the axing of Lasith Malinga as the captain of the national cricket team for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 during a media briefing yesterday. The fast bowler was named captain in December 2018 but after the team failed to win a single game under his charge, the national selection panel promoted Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne as the ODI skipper for cricket’s showpiece event in England and Wales. Under Malinga, Sri Lanka had suffered 12 straight losses in New Zealand and South Africa in ODI and T-20 cricket.

Sri Lanka Cricket President Shammi Silva, flanked by captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Chairman of Selectors Ashantha De Mel, stresses a point during a media briefing to announce the squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup in Colombo yesterday.

Dimuth has not played an ODI in more than four years but Chairman of Selectors Ashantha De Mel was confident that the opening batsman will be able to adapt quickly.  Speculation was rife that Malinga, who is overseas playing the Indian Premier League tournament, was contemplating retirement despite being chosen in the World Cup squad. “Lasith is a world class player and Sri Lanka needs him moving forward. All world class players cannot be good captains and history has proven that. We have lost all the gameS under his captaincy and we needed a change,” SLC President Shammi Silva told journalists yesterday.

“We have given him everything he has asked for and we will be disappointed if he doesn’t show up for the World Cup,” Silva added. There is very little that SLC could do with regards to Malinga as he is not a contracted player. What SLC could do is to stop selecting him for T-20 Internationals if he retires from ODIs. Silva hinted at that possibility.

There was no place for Dinesh Chandimal, the man the previous selection committee had chosen to be the captain of the side, for the World Cup. But the most shocking omission is that of Niroshan Dickwella. The exuberant wicketkeeper batsman is one of the best finds in recent times and was expected to make it to the World Cup squad. He had failed to make notable contributions with the bat during the second leg of South African tour although his wicketkeeping remained flawless. Dickwella also didn’t make an impact during the Inter-Provincial domestic tournament but given his good record as a wicketkeeper should have made it to the squad.

De Mel argued that he had not done enough with the bat to warrant a place. The national selection panel has entrusted Kusal Janith Perera as the lead wicketkeeper. While KJP will pick himself as a specialist batsman in the starting eleven, questions remain whether he is the best wicketkeeper in the country?

Jeewan Mendis and Milinda Siriwardene would consider themselves very lucky to be in the World Cup squad. Both players were tried out in the last 18 months but were discarded after below par performances. While Siriwardene played the ODI series against Pakistan in November 2017, Mendis featured during the T-20 series in Bangladesh and Nidahas Trophy. Both players flopped. Furthermore, Mendis has not played an ODI in more than four years.

Top order batsman Lahiru Thirimanne is also a surprise inclusion having been axed from the ODI side after the tour of India in 2017.

Sri Lanka World Cup Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (Captain), 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 and Suranga Lakmal.

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