With only 18 months remaining for cricket’s showpiece event – the ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales – Sri Lanka’s ODI cricket is set for a complete overhaul. New head coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who assumed duties earlier this week, has presented Sri Lanka Cricket a blueprint on what needs to be done lead up to the 2019 World Cup. SLC announced a pool of 23 players who will resume training on December 28. The pool will be pruned to 15 by mid-January, prior to Hathurusingha’s first assignment – a triangular tournament in Bangladesh also involving Zimbabwe.
Among the major changes that will be introduced is a full-time captain taking the team through to the World Cup. Dinesh Chandimal, who was axed from the ODI series against India, has been drafted into the pool and he is likely to be handed the reins for an extended period.
Taking a cue from India, Sri Lanka seem to be settling in for more wrist spinners and both leg-spinner – Jeffrey Vandersay and chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan – are likely to be drafted into the final squad, having been already named in the pool. The inclusion of Shehan Madushanka, a 22-year-old quick, who has played less than a handful of domestic matches, could be Sri Lanka’s Mustafizur Rahman moment.
In an interview with Cricbuzz, Graham Labrooy, Sri Lanka’s chairman of selectors, sheds light on some of these selections.
Here are the excerpts.Talking of Shehan Madushanka people know very little about him. The story is that Chandika Hathurusingha saw him bowl during the recent T10 League in UAE and called for his selection.Basically, we are looking at the 2019 World Cup. The new coach is very keen on giving all the players who will be part of our campaign a proper go. If you calculate and see, we will be playing 26 ODIs and 13 T20Is before the World Cup. Ideally, Hathurusingha wants all players, who will be part of the World Cup squad, to have played 15 to 20 matches before the big event. I have not seen much of Shehan Madushanka. He is developing fast and has the variations as well. If you saw the recent Champions Trophy in England, the wickets that were provided were flat and someone like him with pace, bowling at 140 plus kmph will be ideal. There’s no guarantee that he will be in the squad for Bangladesh. But we will take a look at him.
Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have replaced Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the Indian team in the shorter formats of the game. The two wrist spinners have done extremely well. Are you thinking along same lines by naming Jeffrey Vandersay and Lakshan Sandakan in the pool of 23?Our thinking is similar to that of India. We need wrist spinners who are capable of taking wickets. They may go for runs, but they will get you the wickets. If you take the top ten bowlers in T20 cricket at the moment, six of them are wrist spinners. If you study the recent Champions Trophy, the finger spinners seemed to be less effective. We also have Wanindu Hasaranga, who could feature in limited-overs cricket. We need to fast-track some of them.
You dropped Kusal Mendis for the Indian series, but he is back in the pool.We all know that he has the capability. The whole idea was to let him get back to form by playing domestic cricket. He made two big hundreds and a couple of fifties. Hathurusingha sees a lot of promise in him.
Thisara Perera was a sort of stopgap captain. How do you want to move forward with him?To be fair by Thisara, it was tough on him captaining the side against the number one ranked team. There were lots of questions asked as to whether he is ready and stuff. The thing is that his performance has dropped, which is a bit of setback. With some guys, when responsibility is given to them, they fall off and some guys seem to be thriving. We took that decision with Upul Tharanga and he has clicked as a batsman with the responsibilities of captaincy taken away from him.
You have brought Dinesh Chandimal back into the equation for ODIs.We know that in the long run, he will come good. There are a few things to work on. We are confident that Hathurusingha can get the best out of him. He has played over 130 ODIs. The coach was saying that it is easier for him to work with someone who has been in the system rather than bring someone new and move on. Chandimal could go on to become an effective ODI player. We are also looking at having two captains. Ideally, we would like to have one captain leading us in all three formats, but the practical thing seems to be to have one captain for Tests and ODIs and another for T20Is. Or else, we can have one captain for Tests and another for ODIs and T20Is.
Who is likely to take over as the ODI captain?We looked at Angelo Mathews as well. But given his injuries and stuff, we need to be sure how much he can play. Chandimal, meanwhile, has established his place in the Test side and has been in good nick. He is our Test captain and he could be our ODI captain as well.
How do you manage Mathews’ workload leading up to the World Cup?We would have loved to rest him from the ongoing T20I series in India. But the problem was that our batsmen weren’t firing. So we had to retain him. We will have a chat with him. He wants to be part of our Test side as well. In shorter formats, we need him to bowl as it helps us to balance the side. We will have a chat with him on how he feels, but I wonder whether we should play him in T20s in the future.
You have again left Lasith Malinga out of the squad.We will look at him for T20Is. Right now, we want him raring to go for the Independence Cup. It is our event and we want him fully focused on that tournament. We want to win that competition. In ODIs, we will consider him if he can again be our main strike bowler. Although he has been not named in the ODI pool, guys like Malinga, Dhananjaya de Silva and Isuru Udana are very much in our plans.
Sri Lanka’s 23 member pool: Thisara Perera, Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dasun Shanaka, Lahiru Gamage, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera, Shehan Madushanka, Lahiru Kumara, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay, Amila Aponso, Lakshan Sadakan and Chaturanga de Silva.