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Sri Lanka in search of redemption in UAE as they play Pakistan

Skipper Chandimal has task cut out with new-look side

Image Credit: AFP
Sri Lanka’s players watch as Buddhist monks chant prayers for their success during a Buddhist ceremony in Colombo prior to the team’s departure.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Battered and bruised at the hands of India and having come under the cloud of an ICC corruption investigation following allegations by a former player of “unnatural match patterns and player selections”, Sri Lanka have landed in the UAE for a series against Pakistan featuring two Tests, five one-dayers and three Twenty20 matches.

Redemption may be the driving objective for Sri Lankan cricket at the moment but, with the islanders arriving for a tour with 40 contracted players — including captain Dinesh Chandimal — who have collectively signed a petition urging Sri Lanka Cricket to carry out an immediate inquiry into ‘shocking’ allegations, is not a perfect scenario to head into a gruelling series.

It is indeed a tricky situation as it could either drag the team deeper into a rut or inspire them to play as a unit but skipper Chandimal would no doubt be keen on the latter scenario. He would be hoping that his side weathers these testing times and finds inspiration from some quarter to help get Sri Lankan cricket back on track.

The task won’t be easy as India had been ruthless in their demolition of Sri Lanka across all formats — winning nine matches in a row — and Pakistan are coming into the tournament on a high after winning the Independence Cup against a World XI, before which they won the Champions Trophy.

Sweeping changes in the Sri Lanka squad were imminent after the rout against India. It started with the appointment of former Test player Graeme Labrooy as the chief selector. Uncapped batsmen Sadeera Samarawickrama and Roshen Silva have both been called up. The 22-year-old Samarawickrama has notched up six First Class hundreds and has a first Class average of 47 while Silva averages 48 in First Class cricket.

Lahiru Thirimanne, who last played for Sri Lanka in June 2016 along with opener Kaushal Silva, whose last national duty was against South Africa in Test in January, are also back in the squad.

Asela Gunaratne, Kusal Perera and Upul Tharanga are the absentees with injuries and though the experienced Angelo Mathews has been picked, he is expected to miss the first Test having not recovered fully from a calf injury.

Pacers Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara have got the boot and the onus of leading the new ball attack will be on Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal. These are not unfamiliar roles for the duo, who have been here in 2013-2014 and were pretty impressive.

Chandimal’s other seam options are left-arm pacer Vishwa Fernando and Lahiru Gamage, who is yet to make his Test debut.

Spinners are going to be vital as always on the slow dirt tracks in the UAE and Chandimal’s options in this respect are left-arm spinner Lakshan Sandakan, finger spinners Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera. The team’s first training session is scheduled for Monday evening at the Shaikh Zayed Cricket Stadium.

Sri Lanka squad: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne (vice-capt), Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Gamage.