Hope to give confidence to Thirimanne, Samarawickrama

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Nov
30

According to the new chief selector Ashantha de Mel, Sri Lanka are hoping to give some of their out-of-favour batsmen a chance by announcing an extended 17-member touring squad for the upcoming two-Test series in New Zealand.

“One of the reasons for extending the touring squad to 17 players was so that we could include the likes of [Sadeera] Samarawickrama and [Lahiru] Thirimanne,” de Mel told ESPNcricinfo. “We feel they have the potential to be important members of Sri Lanka cricket in the future.”

Samarawickrama, 23, has long been identified as a player of tremendous potential, so despite an unspectacular Test career to date, his selection is a means of rewarding promise. Thirimanne’s meanwhile is a case of hitherto wasted potential; following a prolonged rough patch in 2017, he was dropped from the Test side, but de Mel believes he is someone who, even at 29, can offer something extra to the Sri Lanka team.

“We feel he is someone who has the talent, but has been somewhat overlooked in the recent past,” de Mel said of Thirimanne. “Yes he hasn’t managed to put a string of good performances together yet, but it’s important that players like him get longer stints in the side.”

Thirimanne’s latest recall is down to recent runs for Sri Lanka A, though his average of 23.06 in 29 Tests will give his detractors plenty of ammunition. De Mel, though, insists that Thirimanne deserves another shot, especially in seaming conditions – like those in New Zealand and Australia – that may bring the best out of the batsman. Indeed, in the three Tests he has played in those countries, he averages 41.90.

“We found that he has done better on the faster, bouncier tracks that are likely to be produced in countries like New Zealand and Australia. When we prepare spin-friendly wickets at home, sometimes it’s hard for our batsmen to score runs consistently.”

While it remains to be seen if Thirimanne gets a game on tour – de Mel has said he is unlikely to play the first Test – someone who is certain of a place is newly-appointed vice-captain Dimuth Karunaratne.

Karunaratne’s promotion is down to his relative security in the side, as well as his analytical nature, explained de Mel.

“Karunaratne is a thinking cricketer, and we wanted someone like that in that role, someone who will also help improve those around him,” he said. “His performances, in difficult batting conditions, against England were very impressive, and we hope to see him continue this form in New Zealand.”

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