Precisely to the clock five years ago the Lankans made their last tour to the Queen’s country for a similar tour that also took them through three Test matches and five one-day internationals. That tour too began with a rumpus with the then selectors first dropping Sanath Jayasuriya and the country’s first citizen reinstating him in mid-session.
Once again on Tuesday under similar debatable circumstances a part of the Lankan band wagon will take wing for the more demanding Test leg of the tour which begins on May 26. Last time around under Mahela Jayawardena, Sri Lanka drew the first Test, lost the second and won the third by 134 runs to draw the series.
Though the batting looks somewhat the same, this time around the bowling department especially the seam department looks short of experience in exploiting the early summer conditions in England which will be more than troublesome to the young posse.
Chief selector Duleep Mendis explaining the situation accepted that the Lankan bowling lacks the experience of the former army. He said, “This is the best we’ve got. The champions Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga are missing from the squad. It is not that we have dropped them. They have retired from Test cricket and we had to look for new talent.” Mendis also added, “They also must take this as an opportunity to put their hands up and deliver. Test cricket is the ultimate and in cricket there is nothing bigger than that and the young recruits have been provided with the space to hone their talent”.
When asked in contrary to his initial request to all players to be in Sri Lanka by May 5 and the subsequent development of staggered entry to the squad by the players as a result of them being involved in the T-20 Indian Premier League tournament and there would be only a four-day space between the second side game – where the Lankan team will be almost at full strength and the first Test Mendis said, “That would have been the ideal scenario. Still skipper Dilshan and Dilhara Fernando will be available from the first side game and Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena would be available for the second game.”
Dilshan had a good tour of England during Sri Lanka’s last visit to England scoring two half centuries in the first two tests and a thirty in the game that Sri Lanka won, while batting in the middle order. However in batting another heartening feature is that the selectors have been bold enough to name the two most promising young batsmen in the island – Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne to man the middle order. This was something that the two previous selection committees were not ready to do as they kept indulging in the unprofitable duo of Chamara Kapugedera and Chamara Silva.
In a precautionary move to the prevailing situation the Lankan selectors have added all-rounder Farveez Maharoof and wicketkeeper batsman Kaushal Silva into the squad, especially Maharoof who is turning out for Lancashire in the English county championship already has a century against his name and would be a worthwhile addition if he is given the opportunity. Maharoof was a member in the 2006 English tour too.
Speaking about the general atmosphere of the tour Mendis said, “The English cricketers after their Ashes win against Australia in their last outing will be in a good frame of mind to be engaged in the longer version of the game, but the Lankans will take a lot of strength from the fact they being the runners-up in the World Cup tournament and that they had beaten Australia on their own home soil for the first time.”
When asked his opinion about the forthcoming World Test championships and Sri Lanka’s chances of being a part of it, Mendis opined: “We are not going into this series with the Test Championship as our prime motive, but it is a good target that we could set our goal to do well during this series”.
Duleep also commenting his relationship with players added that some newspapers had quoted him calling Malinga a cricketer, “who has pierced eyebrows, dyed blond locks and distinctive slinging action had informed them of his decision.” Mendis said that he has been misquoted by the news agency on this instance as he believes in having a very cordial relationship with individual players which is an important factor in cricketing environment.
The Lankan tour squad for the Test leg: Tillekeratne Dilshan (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayewardene, Tharanga Paranavithana, Thilan Samaraweera, Kaushal Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal, Prasanna Jayewardene, Thisara Perera, Farveez Maharoof, Rangana Herat, Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Chanaka Welagedera, Nuwan Pradeep, Dilhara Fernando.