“We first selected 15 members and then we took two other additional players which the coach wanted. We looked at his request and we thought from our batting side especially with seven Test matches and 9 ODIs altogether in three consecutive series against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa we need to strengthen the batting,” said De Mel.
“Most of the time we are not scoring runs, even in the Test matches they are getting bowled out for less than 250. We need to bolster the batting in the Tests. We selected these batsmen looking at all these three tours. Altogether we have picked 10 batsmen,” he said.
“Normally we take only 15 but this time we are taking two extra players with additional cost to Sri Lanka Cricket. This is done for the betterment of our cricket. They are not going on joy rides.”
On the selection of Thirimanne and Samarawickrema, De Mel said, “Thirimanne is a player who has played well on bouncy pitches in New Zealand and Australia if you take his record. He has been playing well in the super series and his average is 95. He is a good player, the potential is there but for some reason he has not been performing. Sadeera is someone whom they have been trying out and in the last ODI against England he put on a century partnership for the first wicket. We thought we send these two batsmen because after the New Zealand series these boys will be able to do some work in Melbourne. We need some sort of back up in the batting slots of opener and nos. 3 and 4. If someone gets injured it’s very difficult to take one person from here because they won’t be ready to play as they are not got used to the conditions.”
On recent tours Sri Lanka had done away with appointing a vice-captain but De Mel is of the view that it’s an important position. “We have to groom some captain. We feel that Dimuth is the right choice. He is already captaining SSC in the Premier league. He is a thinking cricketer he is someone who is thinking and who can make decisions. Going forward we need somebody like that,” said De Mel.
Karunaratne will open the batting with Danushka Gunathilaka while the wicket-keeping duties will be shared by Niroshan Dickwella and Dinesh Chandimal who returns to lead the team after missing out the second and third Tests against England with a torn groin.
Fast bowlers Nuwan Pradeep and Lahiru Kumara have also been recalled. Pradeep returns after 14 months having struggled with injuries and Kumara after suspension on disciplinary grounds that saw him miss the recently concluded three-Test series against England.
Sri Lanka play New Zealand in the first Test at Wellington from December 15-19 and the second at Christchurch from December 26-30.