Rex on Sri Lanka Cricket Selections & ‘Powers’ Behind the Scenes

The Sri Lankan Squad in Zimbabwe comprises the following:

Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Mendis (vc & wk), Dimuth Karunaratne, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, Dushan Hemantha.

Rex Clementine …. ONE:

The national cricket team left for Zimbabwe on Saturday to take part in the World Cup Qualifiers, their last chance to earn a spot for the sport’s showpiece event – the ICC Cricket World Cup – to be held in India in October and November.

Only the top eight ranked teams gained automatic qualification for the World Cup. Sri Lanka struggled during the qualifying period winning only seven of their 24 games and losing 14 matches, collecting just 81 points.

The World Cup Qualifiers features ten teams and only two of them go through the World Cup. Along with Sri Lanka, two times champions West Indies, who failed to go through strait will be involved in the qualifications.

Sri Lanka are in Group ‘B’ alongside Ireland, Scotland, Oman and UAE. The top three teams in the group will progress to the Super Six stage where they will take on the other three qualifiers from Group ‘A’. The points from the group stage against the other teams that qualified will be taken forward for the Super Six stage. The top two teams will end up playing the finals apart from earning spots in the World Cup that will only feature ten teams.

Sri Lanka and West Indies are tipped to reach the finals and progress for the World Cup. Sri Lanka’s win over Afghanistan last week should give them confidence ahead of the qualifying round. Afghanistan are already through to the World Cup

Sri Lanka’s first game is against the UAE on the 19th June followed by matches against Oman, Ireland and Scotland.  Dasun Shanaka’s side will play a warm-up game against Netherlands on the 13th June followed by another warm-up game against USA, two days later.

Sri Lanka have featured in every World Cup since taking part in the inaugural edition in 1975 under the captaincy of Anura Tennakoon. This is the first time Sri Lanka are playing a qualifying round in the 50 over format since 1979.

Sri Lanka’s World Cup Qualifiers Schedule

Warm-up games: June 13 – versus Netherlands …………… June 15 – versus USA

Group Matches: ………  June 19 – versus UAE …………June 23 – versus Oman ……..June 25– versus Ireland …………. June 27 – versus Scotland


Rex Clementine … TWO: “Stability in ODI Team, But Flaws Still Exist” ...

One Day International (ODI) cricket has been played for over half a century now and early this year the sport saw the biggest ever defeat in that format of the game in the Indian city of Trivandrum when Sri Lanka suffered an ignominious defeat by a massive 317 runs at the hands of India.

On that fateful day, Sri Lanka (SL) had been shot out for just 73 runs with rookie Nuwanindu Fernando top scoring with 19. SL had got their combination awfully wrong in that series. They were playing five all-rounders in that Trivandrum game – Captain Dasun Shanaka, Ashen Bandara, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dunith Wellalage and Chamika Karunaratne.

Those who follow the game closely well know that former captain Mahela Jayawardene (MJ) plays a very much hands on in his role as consultant coach. Be it team selections, selection of coaches, support staff or structure of our cricket, all these need to be okayed by him. There’s no harm in giving him full powers, but on his part he’s got to take up responsibility for his decisions too.

Certain individuals have an axe to grind with MJ. They believe that given his monthly USD 18,000 pay packet from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), he is not spending enough time with the national cricket team. But the real issue is not that. MJ is like a MOSSAD operative carrying out secret missions rather than acting openly.

His sidekicks – the selectors – have not addressed a single media briefing to explain their policies although they have done the job for more than two years now. The conclusion you can draw is that they simply don’t have the answers for decisions that were not theirs.

You find that when Sri Lanka wins the Asia Cup, the Chairman of Selectors praises MJ. But when debacles like Trivandrum happen, the blame is quietly palmed off to Chris Silverwood. Coach Silverwood doesn’t pick teams. Surely, someone of MJ’s stature should be aware that playing as many as five all-rounders was a strategy that was tried out by England two decades ago and it was recipe for disaster.

Thankfully, lessons have been learnt and Sri Lanka have moved away from banking on all-rounders too much. Recalling Dimuth Karunaratne was one key reason for Sri Lanka’s success in the three-match series against Afghanistan. In the crucial second ODI, he provided the platform for the rest of the batters and that turned out to be a winning formula.

It is for that very reason that Dimuth who hadn’t featured in an ODI for four years was recalled for the 2019 World Cup where he did a decent job. But the current selectors dumped him in 2021 and it is a supreme irony that they themselves have recalled him. It was an admission of ‘Yes, we got it wrong.’

But are they being held accountable for the current mess where Sri Lanka is playing the qualifiers while other teams like Bangladesh and Afghanistan have qualified for the showpiece ICC World Cup event later this year?

While the squad selected for the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe is commendable, there are flaws. It’s been said umpteen times that both Dasun Shanaka and Chamika Karunaratne are players of similar style and with Dasun certain to play, there’s no room for Chamika.

Then why do you have to take two leg-spinners to Zimbabwe? Hasaranga is anyway going to play. So why do you need a Dushan Hemantha? Worst, Sri Lanka are only carrying six specialist batters for a tournament where there is so much at stake. If someone breaks a finger or pulls a hamstring, the squad doesn’t have a replacement. Then we will be back to square one with both Dasun and Chamika figuring on the team sheet.

When the 16-member squad was selected for the Afghanistan series, it was obvious that if Hasaranga was fit, Hemantha was going to miss out from the trip to Zimbabwe. But it was the big fish, Angelo Mathews, who was axed.

Mathews like Dimuth was recalled to the ODI side after more than two years when Sri Lanka toured New Zealand. Since his comeback, he managed only scores of 18, 0 and 12. The selectors may argue that he deserved the chop. But what about Kusal Mendis?

This year he has played all three ODI series’ that Sri Lanka participated in but managed just one half-century and that too only last week. This is a clear indication that the players are served with different spoons.

Six batters is an awful choice. Mathews should have been there. The selectors will not utter a word. Neither will MJ. The conclusion that you can draw is that some people are trying to settle old scores. That is simply not cricket.


1 Comment

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One response to “Rex on Sri Lanka Cricket Selections & ‘Powers’ Behind the Scenes

  1. Dickie Bird

    Matheesha Pathirana & Hemantha should have been left to play more SLC A team matches. Instead of Matheesha, the selectors should have taken Dilshan Madushanka & THEN Prabath jayasuriya instead of Hemantha. After all we are facing qualifyers.
    Leave Mathews aside, they have overlooked Chandimal as well.
    The worst SLC can do is appoint Kusal Mendis as Vice captain over DDS who is the most consistent player in the squad.
    Kusal Mendis must be told to speak with his bat & not through a flash in the pan innings. In our eyes, he failed against Netherlands in the warm up game.

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