By Madushka Balasuriya
Sri Lanka have named a new-look squad for their tour of South Africa next month, with no less than eight changes being made to the side that bowed out in the group stages of the Women’s World T20 at the tail end of last year.
The most notable inclusions are the uncapped teenager duo of Tharika Sewwandi, 18, and Umesha Thimashini, 17, who, alongside the likes of Harshitha Madavi, Kavisha Dilhari and Imalka Mendis, are among five players aged 25 or under included in the squad.
Others returning to the squad are batter Prasadani Weerakkody, wicketkeeper Anushka Sanjeewani, medium pacer Achini Kulasuriya and veteran spinner Inoka Ranaweera.
Making way are several veterans such as Yasoda Mendis, 32, Eshani Lokusuriyage, 34, Dilani Manodara, 36, Inoshi Fernando, 31, and Sripali Weerakody, 33, many of whom have been left out in favour of youth. Also omitted are pace bowler Ama Kanchana, who had a fairly forgettable World T20, and spinner Sugandika Kumari.
“Sripali has been left out due to personal reasons, the others however are now over 30 and they’ve been given several chances with national side,” SLC Women’s cricket Chief Selector Rasanjali De Alwis told Daily FT.
While the new squad sees youth being given prominence, De Alwis also stressed the importance of striking the right balance. As such experience hasn’t been foregone completely, with the likes of Ranaweera, former captain Shashikala Siriwardena, allrounder Prasadani Weerakkody, veteran seamer Udeshika Prabodhani and spinner Oshadi Ranasinghe, making up a core contingent of players 30 and above.
Several others such Nilakshi De Silva, Hasini Perera, Anushka Sanjeewani and Captain Chamari Atapattu meanwhile fall in the key 26-29 age group.
“Now it’s time to plan for the next World Cup and give some of the younger players a chance. We hope the senior players will be able to offer their experience and guide the younger players going forward,” she added.
The first test of the new squad will be the first ODI against South Africa Women on 1 February in Cape Town. The teams are set to play 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is.