By Madushka Balasuriya
Sri Lanka’s emerging team will take on their South African counterparts in a four-day match starting today at the Chilaw Marians Ground, Katunayake, with a few former Test players set to take part as well. The tour will include a second four-day game from 2-5 August before the first of three one-dayers on 9 August.
Kaushal Silva will captain the Sri Lankan side, one of three Test players in the side, the others being fast-bowler Lahiru Gamage and spinner Malinda Pushpakumara.
Speaking on the eve of the first game, Sri Lanka Emerging Squad Coach Avishka Gunawardene explained that the team had a “few objectives” in mind for the tour ahead, which was why senior players had been included.
“On these tours, there a few objectives we’re looking to achieve. Someone like Kaushal, for example, is trying to get back into the National team and get his form back. While for the youngsters, it’s a good experience to play with a couple of seniors.”
Meanwhile, for South Africa, the tour is seen as a way for up-and-coming players in their system to get experience playing in subcontinental conditions. Among those who have come through emerging squad in the past is Aiden Markram, who played for the senior side in the recently concluded Test series against Sri Lanka, and South African Coach Shukri Conrad is hoping for some of this batch to make the step up as well in the future.
“We were here three years ago as well, and it’s a great opportunity for us. It’s a massive developmental tour for our younger players to experience conditions like this. We expect wickets to turn, but I also expect wickets to be good [for batting] because I think Sri Lanka are also trying to breed batters to play on all sorts of conditions. “This emerging side is really an extension of our national academy program. Our ‘A’ side leaves today for India, so a lot of those peripheral players will be on subcontinent conditions, expecting and getting acclimatised to playing on conditions that we have struggled on.
“Just three years on the same tour, we had guys like Aiden Markram, and they do elevate themselves rather quickly into the national side. And it’s my expectation that in three years, a few of the members of this touring side will be playing for the Proteas,” he added.