Selection Headaches for T20 Tour of Australia

Michael Roberts

There are some headaches that one welcomes. The magnificent performances generated by a raw Sri Lankan T20 squad in Pakistan this month is one such headache. Ashantha De Mel and Co are to be congratulated for their selections and for expanding the problems by giving fresh faces the chance to impress in the third ODI.


We should not get carried away. The pitch conditions in Australia will be different and the opposition far superior — especially in the departments called “fielding” and “pace.” These are arenas one must contemplate in choosing our squad. That is, previous experience in playing in Australia should be regarded as a plus when choosing between X and Y.  I began addressing this issue yesterday, 9th October, before the Third ODI commenced and compiled a statistical chart (see below) for the batting ‘department’ (without the results of this last match). The list of batsmen is presented below in STRIKE/RATE order. I consider that just one guideline — to be qualified by “experience” … team spirit, moderation and adaptability … and batting competence against pace-bowling.

It is surely significant that Dasun Shanaka did not bowl himself in Pakistan. That has a bearing on any selection of a XI from a touring squad because a medium-pace allrounder is better than a medium-pace bunnie batsman. While Shanaka’s six-hitting ability is a vital consideration, his S/R is only in the 118 range (same as Angelo Mathews) and below that of six others (as well as the two newcomers Bhanuka and Oshada (whose careers at the top are too short for placement in comparative scale).

Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis are definite shoe-ins and must be considered our leading batsmen for Australia. Both statistics, experience and ability to bowl occasional off-spin lead me to place Dhanushka Gunatilleka in the opening slot with Kusal Perera. Kusal Mendis could bat at either No 3 or No 4.

The selections thereafter depend on whether one selects Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera in the XVI. Thisara Perera’s superior S/R, his previous familiarity with Australian conditions, his fielding and bowling[1] render hm a shoe-in. Angelo’s relative slowness in the field and his running between the wickets do raise problems. His past experiences in Australia suggest to me that he should lead the side as captain – a suggestion to which I add a question-mark.

Niroshan Dickwella’s  S/R, his ebullience and experience render him my vital and he would be my first choice as keeper (with the captain advised to be cautious in accepting his decision on reviews).

Let me present a tentative THOUGHT SCHEME in potential batting order determined by my desire to have no more than two bunnies in the tail.

1 = Kusal Perera

2 = Dhanushka Gunathilaka

3 = Kusal Mendis

4 = Oshada Fernando/Bhanuka Rajapaksa

5= Angelo Mathews

6 = Niroshan Dickwella …. Oshada/Bhanuka

7= Thisara Perera

8 = Wanindu Hasaranga

9 = Isuru Udana

10 =Suranga Lakmal

11 = Rajitha …. Pradeep

Counting all these players, we have THIRTEEN – with four pacemen, one spinner and one part-time spinner (Gunathilaka).

This leaves one with the decision whether (A) to insert another spinner — the choices here being between Sandakan and Embuldeniya (both bunnies as batsman); and whether (B) to select Lahiru Gamage as paceman or choose Dasun Shanaka as medium paceman – after addressing the fact that Shanaka did not bowl at all in Pakistan. Gamage is the fastest of our pacemen, but his pace will be not be a special problem for the Aussies, so my toss will fall in favour of Shanaka because of his batting dynamics.

Embuldeniya is a better option than Sandakan as a spinner, but I have a soft spot for Sandakan because I think he is a lucky charm …. a sort of pirit nula generating currents through the team.


The remaining spot in my book is (X) a toss-up between Shehan Jayasuriya and Dhananjaya de Silva — both batsman who can bowl spin as the occasion demands and (B) Avishka Fernando as another attacking batsman. The latter is a serious young prospect for all three forms of cricket in the future, while Jayasuriya has looked good in Lahore, but I would opt for Dhananjaya because of his allrounder capacities, previous experience against Aussie players and demeanour.

SO, we have

Kusal Perera, Dhanushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Oshada Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Thisara Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep, Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva and ‘Lucky’ Sandakan.


                                                 Inns     RUNS              H/S                  Average             Strike Rate     


Thisara Perera                        70           1169              61                    23.85            152.45

Niroshan Dickwella*              20            424              68                    21.20               139.01

Kusal Mendis*                        21            450              79                    21.85               139.03

Kusal Perera*                         39           1071             84                    27.46               136.08

Danushka Gunathilaka          18             412             57                    22.8                 128.34

Angelo Mathews                    57            1055            81                    27.05               118.14

Dasun Shanaka                      32              404             54                    16.16               118.82

Shehan Jayasuriya                  13              212             40                   16.38               113.29

Sadeera Samarasinghe*        06                 85            32                    19.7                 104.34

Dhananjaya De Silva              13               257           62                    19.76               101.53

Avishka Fernando                    08             111           37                      13.8             94.06                       


A = When I raised doubts about Angelo Mathews fielding, it was about his sureness of hand but a reference to his relative sluggishness in recent times – a feature which will enable the Aussie batsmen to gain two runs rather than one by placing the ball in his direction. This adds up against Sri Lanka.

B = The selection of Dhananjaya over Shehan was the toss of a coin. I have not seen enough of their bowling to select the better run-saving bowling option; though the limited statistics indicate that Dhananjaya’s E/R and S/R are way superior. Shehan, however, will bring the freshness and enthusiasm of success in Pakistan into his batting, so he could well be a better option.

 SHEHAN =               9 119 178 3 1/11 1/11 59.33 8.97   39.6 0 0 0
D’JAYA = 13   7   90 100 5 2/22 2/22 20.00 6.66 18.0


C = It may be feasible to strengthen the batting just a tad by playing both Oshada and Bhanuka and dropping Isuru Udana. This means that Thisara, Danuska Gunathilaka and Mathews would have to split eight overs between themselves. This is a feasible option because Mathews is an intelligent player.


I was working under the erroneous impression that Malinga was retiring and unavailable. But since a report indicates he is in line for the captaincy then he slots into my Eleven ahead of either Suranga Lakmal or Nuwan Pradeep  …. and any one of the following is dropped from the Squad of Sixteen: Pradeep, Shanaka, Sandakan.


[1] In New Zealand in January 2018 Thisara Perera’s bowling was massacred …but he scored 140 and 80 in two of the 50-over ODIS.

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