Sri Lanka’s dalliance with Angelo Mathews in ODIs appears to have been short-lived after the veteran was left out from the 15-man squad set to fly out to Zimbabwe for the World Cup Qualifier later this month.Mathews had been recalled to the ODI side ahead of Sri Lanka’s tour of New Zealand earlier this year following an absence of two years. The decision had given the 36-year-old hopes of a World Cup swansong. However, following a string of subpar showings – since his return, he has made scores of 18, 0 and 12 – he was dropped from the playing XI ahead of the second ODI against Afghanistan last week.Sadeera Samarawickrama, Mathews’ replacement for that match, made a brisk 44, which saw him retain his place in the third ODI that followed, though he wasn’t required to bat. Thus, Mathews, who has 221 ODIs under his belt, now seems unlikely to add to that number.His recall ahead of the Afghanistan series, along with that of Dimuth Karunaratne, was seen as a shift from the selectors to focus more on experience during a World Cup year. But Karunaratne’s retention for the World Cup Qualifier is proof that he remains in their minds, though the 35-year-old certainly seems to have earned his opportunity, racking up back-to-back fifties on his return to the ODI side as Sri Lanka secured a come-from-behind series win against Afghanistan.
The rest of the squad, though, has few surprises. The batting unit mostly picks itself, with captain Dasun Shanaka leading the likes of Kusal Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva and Samarawickrama.
Chamika Karunaratne, Shanaka and Wanindu Hasaranga fill the allrounders’ slots, while Hasaranga also leads a spin department that also includes Maheesh Theekshana and legspinner Dushan Hemantha.
Hemantha earned his maiden cap in the first ODI against Afghanistan, stepping in for the injured Hasaranga. However, upon Hasaranga’s return to the XI, he failed to feature for the rest of the series. His inclusion seems to be based primarily on his ability to act as cover for Hasaranga, though he has impressed domestically in the recent past.
Where Sri Lanka’s trump cards lie, though, is in their lively – though fragile – seam department. Dushmantha Chameera, who made an impressive return to action in the Afghanistan series after ten months out, heads it, although his workload still needs managing. The same goes for Lahiru Kumara, who is capable of express pace but also, far too often, of not being able to complete his spells owing to niggling injuries – most recently in the first ODI against Afghanistan.
The young and exciting Matheesha Pathirana has also made it to the squad. He made a splash in the IPL earlier this year with his 145kph slinging yorkers prior to even receiving an ODI cap, which he eventually did last week.
Kasun Rajitha, who rounds out the lot, who, is not express but can be relied upon for some early swing, and nagging lines and lengths.
Sri Lanka begin their qualifying campaign on June 19 against UAE in Bulawayo, prior to which they will play three warm-up games.
Sri Lanka squad: Dasun Shanaka (capt), Kusal Mendis (wk), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushan Hemantha, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha, Matheesha Pathirana, Maheesh Theekshana