The West Indies ODI cricket team led by hard hitting all-rounder Kieron Pollard arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday for a series of 3 ODIs and 2 T20Is.
Perera, a match-winning cricketer on his day fell out of favour with the national selectors after the Bangladesh ODI series in July last year and spent most of his time playing in T20 league around the world in the Caribbean League for St Lucia Zouks and in the Bangladesh Premier League for Dhaka Platoon and also in the Abu Dhabi T10 where he captained Bangla Tigers to third place.
Perera (30) will fight for a place for the number seven spot with another all-rounder Dasun Shanaka in both the ODI and T20I formats.
The national selectors have picked a 20-member squad to play in both series with Dimuth Karunaratne leading Sri Lanka in the three-match ODI series starting at the SSC on February 22 and old warhorse Lasith Malinga retaining the T20I captaincy for yet another series which commences at Pallekele on March 4.
Apart from Perera’s recall there are no major changes to the squad named for the two formats.
Malinga whose leadership has been under scrutiny has been given another opportunity to redeem himself as a player and a captain. He had a poor series in India where he failed in both areas and the chief selector and head coach it is learnt has spoken to him and told him that he must pull up his socks at training and improve his leadership and performances at matches.
Since Malinga was reappointed T20 captain in January 2019, Sri Lanka has lost 10 matches under him and has won just once. The chief selector and head coach are ready to accept the fact that other members of the team too should chip in with contributions if the team is to win, but Malinga as a leader has to set an example.
The core issue with Sri Lanka has been their top order batting in white ball cricket where the batsmen have failed to put up competitive totals to give the bowlers a fair chance of bowling or restricting the opposition.
The coaching staff under new head coach Mickey Arthur has been working with the boys trying to iron out the weak areas and we have been told by the chairman of selectors that there will be a big improvement by the team during the West Indies series.
The 20-member squad commenced training at the R Premadasa Stadium yesterday in preparation for the series. They will train at this venue till February 17 before moving into the team hotel on February 19.
In the last ODI series played in Pakistan Danushka Gunathilaka and Avishka Fernando opened the batting in the third and final match, but with Karunaratne returning to the side as captain – he missed the Pakistan tour on grounds of security concerns – there is going to be a keen tussle for the openers’ berth.
Gunathilaka in fact scored his maiden ODI hundred in Sri Lanka’s last ODI against Pakistan played at Karachi in October.
In the 2019 World Cup Karunaratne who led the side opened the batting with Kusal Perera who is now expected to bat at number three with Kusal Mendis at four, Angelo Mathews at five, Dhananajaya de Silva at six and either Dasun Shanaka or Thisara Perera at seven.
The wicket-keeper’s position is also interesting with Niroshan Dickwella being named in the squad. It will be either Dickwella or Kusal Perera who will take on the gloves.
THARANGA, THIRIMANNE TO LEAD
Former Sri Lanka ODI captain Upul Tharanga will lead a Sri Lanka Cricket XI side for West Indies’ opening warm-up game one-day game at the P Sara Oval on February 17, and Lahiru Thirimanne will captain Sri Lanka Cricket President’s team in the one-day warm-up game at Katunayake on February 20. Thirimanne in fact led the Sri Lanka ODI team to Pakistan in the absence of Karunaratne where they lost the 3-match series 0-2 (1 NR).