Sri Lanka had sprung a surprise on Wednesday (April 17) when they named Dimuth Karunaratne as their World Cup captain, relieving Lasith Malinga of his duties at the helm. Karunaratne last represented Sri Lanka in the format in 2015 and averages a meager 15.83. But he received the backing of the selectors given his impressive performances in Test cricket.
On Thursday (18th April), there were further surprises in store as they dropped Niroshan Dickwella and Akila Dananjaya from their World Cup squad. While Dickwella is Sri Lanka’s highest run-scorer in the period after Champions Trophy 2017 with 1070 runs, Akila Dananjaya is their highest wicket-taker with 48 wickets.
Meanwhile, Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeffrey Vandersay, Milinda Siriwardana and Jeevan Mendis earned recalls to the ODI team for the World Cup despite having not played a single ODI since 2017.
Dinesh Chandimal is another notable omission. The middle-order batsman was the skipper of the ODI side last October but finds himself out of the team for the marquee event.
A look at Sri Lanka’s best batsmen since Champions Trophy 2017 gives insights into how they have ignored international performances and backed numbers from recent Super Four Provincial Tournament to pick players.
The top-scorer, and the only one to make over 1000 runs in this period, Dickwella, is a shocking omission. He had two hundreds (the most by any Sri Lankan) and five half-centuries (joint most) in this time frame. Upul Tharanga, the second highest run-scorer in this period, also finds himself out of the squad.
Danushka Gunathilaka is another shocking exclusion. The batsman averages 42.35 since the Champions Trophy and has four half-centuries in this period but Kusal Perera (avg of 34.8) and Kusal Mendis (avg of 20.43) were preferred over him.
Chandimal’s numbers aren’t too impressive but with lack of experience in the side, his omission close to the World Cup is surprising.
Despite taking 48 wickets at 29.64, Akila Dananjaya misses out on a World Cup place. Surprisingly, the main spinners in the side - Jeffrey Vandersay and Jeevan Mendis - haven’t played ODIs since 2017. Lakshan Sandakan, another candidate in the spinner’s department, also finds himself ousted after his 12 wickets since Champions Trophy came at an impressive economy of 6.77.
While Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep find a place in the team, Isuru Udana, on the back of his good performances with the bat in the ODIs and T20Is in South Africa, also earns a place.
Dushmantha Chameera (9 wickets at an average of 49.66), Vishwa Fernando (5 wickets at 67.4), Kasun Rajitha (5 wickets at 47.8), Lahiru Kumara (4 wickets at 35) miss out on selection.
World Cup team numbers
A look at the data of players picked for the World Cup reveal telling details.
There is an evident lack of experience in the side with only four players having played over 100 matches. Five players, including skipper Karunaratne, haven’t played ODIs in the last couple of years at least.
In the batting department, just one batsman (Angelo Mathews) averages over 40 in his ODI career. Among bowling options, only one (Lasith Malinga) has an average under 30. While Mathews has been very prone to injuries of late and hasn’t played too many matches since 2018, Malinga too has had fitness and form concerns.
Five of the seven pure batsmen picked, average under 30 in their ODI careers. Only four have 15 or more half-centuries but even they haven’t been in the best of form of late.
Among the all-rounders, Thisara Perera has impressive numbers of late and decent career numbers too, but the rest don’t inspire much confidence. Isuru Udana, primarily a bowler, averages 93 in ODIs with the ball, while Milinda Siriwardana and Jeevan Mendis both have poor career numbers with bat and ball.
Lakmal and Malinga were first choice options in the fast bowling department but Nuwan Pradeep, in and out of the team of late due to injuries, squeezed in ahead of some talented youngsters despite an economy of over 6 in ODIs.
Jeffrey Vandersay is the lone main spinner in the side and he has 10 wickets at 43 in ODIs. Jeevan Mendis, who is a spinning all-rounder, has a bowling average of 40.5 while Milinda Siriwardana, another in the same category, averages 58.8 with the ball.
Most of the selection has been based on the recent domestic One Day tournament – a flawed exercise in itself as the sample size of matches is too less for any proper analysis.