We are playing according to the head coach’s plans, says chief selector

Wednesday, 9 June 2021 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka building a team according to head coach Mickey Arthur’s (3rd from left) plans


  •  Aim is to gain automatic qualification for 2023 Cricket World Cup

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

SLC Chairman of Selectors Pramodya Wickramasinghe

Sri Lanka are following the plans of head coach Mickey Arthur to build a team for the 2023 World Cup as well as at the same time try and gain automatic qualification for the tournament, said chairman of selectors Pramodya Wickramasinghe.

Right now, Sri Lanka are nowhere close to achieving those two objectives as they have only competed in one ODI series with their new look side, in the process gaining their first points in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League with a win in the third and final ODI against Bangladesh.

Wickramasinghe, a former Sri Lanka fast bowler and member of the winning 1996 World Cup-winning side, is confident that with the team that they have selected for the ODI series against Bangladesh and the upcoming one against England, it is a start they have made towards achieving their targets.

“The head coach Mickey Arthur has a plan, and we are going according to that,” said Wickramasinghe. “It’s like 50-50 to build a side for the World Cup as well as to try and qualify for a place automatically. We have 18 matches in hand, and we need to win at least 11 of them to qualify, some of the matches are going to be played in Sri Lanka. We are trying to somehow achieve that target.”

To gain automatic qualification Sri Lanka must finish in the top eight of the World Cup Super League, if not they will have to play in a qualifying event with Associate sides from which two will go through to the 10-team World Cup. Currently, Sri Lanka are the wooden-spoonists at the bottom of the table and need to lift themselves up with some sterling performances in the coming months.

“Let’s see how we have fallen into that position. Even in the T20 World Cup we have to qualify. So, if you look at it, we have come to this stage playing with the senior players. During that time, we didn’t give a place to youngsters. What we are speaking in terms of seniors and experience is about three players – Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal.

“If you take the number of matches played by Dimuth and the number of matches played by Kusal Perera, it doesn’t make a big difference to the side, and if you consider the performances of the seniors, it is time that we brought in young players and groomed them. We don’t know by the time 2023 comes around whether Angelo will play. If by some chance he gets injured and he decides to retire then we will be left without anyone to replace him. That said, we will also be looking at Angelo, while at the same time preparing another young player to take his place.”

Not lacking in experience

“In the present ODI side there is experience. In the first two matches against Bangladesh the only two new players were Ashen Bandara and Pathum Nissanka, the rest have played white ball cricket since 2015. There is experience in the side it is only now that the players are beginning to take some responsibility and play. In another three years this lot will have the experience that is required,” Wickramasinghe explained. 

“If you actually summarise the ODIs in Bangladesh, if we had won the toss in the first two matches, we would have won the series. Even with all the experience they have, Bangladesh still could not score 200 in the third ODI. We must think positively. Our team is gelling well, they are taking on responsibility. When I spoke to them before the third ODI they were confident that they could win if they won the toss. The players understand the roles required from them. I have confidence that, in time to come, we will have a very strong white ball team.”

Wickramasinghe also said that the fitness regime for players prior to selection was brought in to put a stop to the practice of picking half fit players and taking them on tours in the hope that they may recover in time and be available for selection.   

“In the past we took a squad of players on tour and some of them were only half fit and could not be available for selection. To stop this, we have brought in this policy that prior to selection we need to know whether the player is fit enough or not for selection. Taking a player who is not fit and hoping that he will recover and be fit during the tour is a risk.”

Captaincy to be reviewed after England tour

Switching focus to the England tour and the T20I captaincy, Wickramasinghe said that Kusal Perera has been asked to captain Sri Lanka in the three T20Is against England as well as the three ODIs so as to maintain some form of uniformity.    

“We gave Kusal two tours to Bangladesh and England and told him to continue as captain without breaking the format. After the completion of the England tour, we will review the captaincy. He has areas to improve as captain, we will closely monitor him during the England series and then arrive at a decision.” 

On the T20I captaincy, Wickramasinghe said: “There are about 3-4 players for the T20I captaincy. Initially we gave the captaincy to Dasun Shanaka who has won a series in Pakistan. We need to speak with him and discuss his form as well before taking a final decision.”

Of the 24-strong squad travelling to England, Wickramasinghe said that there are at least 18 players who can be rated as T20 specialists and, of the seven who joined the 17 that toured Bangladesh, he said Ishan Jayaratne and Dhananjaya Lakshan were selected mainly for the T20Is, while Avishka Fernando, Charith Asalanka, Nuwan Pradeep and Oshada Fernando were primarily being thought of for the ODIs. “All of them can play both formats, we will take a call on who should play at the time of selection.”

On the selection of Test sensation Praveen Jayawickrama for white ball cricket, Wickramasinghe said: “If you look at Praveen’s record in the recent domestic season, he has performed well in T20 cricket, so it is not fair to immediately label him only as a Test player. As we can take 24 players, we have picked him for England to keep him in the squad and to give him exposure. Regardless of whether he is selected to play or not he can get used to bowling in English conditions. We are giving him that opportunity. If required we will play him, but it’s a learning curve for him.”