Home team Sri Lanka’s selection for the Asia Cup, under new chairman of selectors Aravinda de Silva, saw a couple of expected decisions being taken, as also a few surprising ones. Sanath Jayasuriya’s exclusion falls in the former category while Ajantha Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal’s non-selection should be part of the latter sort.
Starting with Jayasuriya, his former teammate de Silva aptly pointed out that the veteran left-hander has had a torrid time with the bat over the last 12 months. As such, his axing was a matter of when and not if. Jayasuriya is 40 now and though the World Cup is less than a year away, the chances of him making the cut are the slimmest.
This is because, he hasn’t been contributing with the ball either. The last selection committee had made it clear that Jayasuriya was now being considered as a bowler, who could bat. And since, he has from fulfilled the criteria, the decision to drop him was a step in the right direction by de Silva and co.
The selectors have also made a progressive move by giving Farveez Maharoof another chance for the Asia Cup. Okay, he hasn’t been in the best of form lately. But, the fact is that he is the best bowling all-rounder the Lankans have in their kitty at the moment. Also, he has just fully recovered from injuries; so his past performances must be ignored, and his case must be viewed in a fresh perspective.
Further, as rightly pointed out by de Silva, Angelo Mathews is a very good batting all-rounder. And so, it was equally important for the Lankans to have someone like Maharoof in the team, with Jayasuriya not doing the job. As for the great man, it would be fair to say, he should gracefully retire.
This is not to state that Jayasuriya cannot be in contention for the World Cup team. But, even if he is selected, the chances of him making a decent impression aren’t very strong, considering his poor run of scores, which has lasted for well over a year. This clearly indicates that it is not due to lack of form, but the age factor catching up with him.
One of the biggest surprises thrown up by the new selection panel was the decision to leave out Ajantha Mendis. Interestingly, de Silva refused to term his non-inclusion as ‘dropped’, and instead stated he was left out for ‘tactical reasons’. The rationale seems rather bizarre, but it was good to see de Silva revealing that it was the result of a discussion between the captain and the team management.
When such strange choices are made, it is of utmost importance to consult the skipper and the senior players, else it can very well result into a revolt, as seem on numerous occasions in the past. For Lankan cricket’s sake, one only hopes that the secret formula works, otherwise they will have to face a lot of brickbats. On the contrary, if the risk pays off one must salute de Silva and his men.
Meanwhile, the decision to call back left-arm spinner Rangana Herath must be seen as a brave one. Herath has always performed exceedingly well in the limited opportunities that he has been presented with, and so it was only fair that Mendis’ place in the squad went to him.
Apart from his experience, he will also lend some variety to the bowling attack, which features the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan and the ever-improving Suraj Randiv.
The Lankan selectors also taught their Indian counterparts a lesson in choosing a team. While the Indians have handed ODI spots to Saurabh Tiwary and Ashok Dinda on a platter, Sri Lanka have not included Dinesh Chandimal, who recently scored a match-winning hundred against India, as well as Jeevan Mendis, who also impressed in Zimbabwe.
Putting things into perspective, the selection committee has asked them to hone their skills against an Australian A side, letting the senior and more deserving members of the team keep their place.
Deciding on a cricket team is a far from easy task. And, while de Silva and co. have taken a couple of controversial decisions, it won’t be wrong to say that, at least, they are thinking in the right direction. And, being so, the results should come sooner or later.