Akila Dananjaya vies for Test cap : Selectors appoint Lakmal vice-captain for BD Tests | Sunday Observer

Akila Dananjaya vies for Test cap : Selectors appoint Lakmal vice-captain for BD Tests

Akila Dananjaya seeking his first Test cap.
Akila Dananjaya seeking his first Test cap.

With a new head coach Chandika Hathurusingha in place whose inputs are valued as much as the Test captain’s, the 16-member Sri Lanka squad picked for the two Tests against Bangladesh saw some interesting changes and a surprise appointment brought about that would probably shape future Test teams.

Suranga Lakmal saddled with the extra responsibility of Test vice-captaincy.

There was no place for batsmen who failed to contribute in the last Test series against India and it was no surprise to see Lahiru Thirimanne and Sadeera Samarawickrama being left out. So has fast bowling all-rounder Dasun Shanaka and left-arm pacie Vishwa Fernando.

Recalled to the Test squad are batsmen Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka, fast bowlers Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara and spinner Akila Dananjaya who comes into contention for a place in the Test side for the first time in his career.

Since making his international debut in 2012 Dananjaya an off-spinner who bowls several other varieties as well including a leg-break has always been recognised as a one-day bowler appearing in 14 ODIs and 9 T20Is for his country.

However for this tour of Bangladesh Dananjaya forms a four-prong spin attack headed by veteran spinner Rangana Herath and comprising Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan. With Nuwan Pradeep confined to play only in one-day games for the present time, the pace attack headed by Suranga Lakmal looks thin in experience compared to the spin combination with Chameera, and the two Lahirus – Gamage and Kumara having appeared in a total combination of 18 Tests among them forming the quartet.

Lakmal who leads Tamil Union in the domestic Premier tournament and has quietly worked himself to become the spearhead of the Lankan fast bowling attack has been given extra responsibilities being rewarded with the Test vice-captaincy for the first time.

The 30-year-old fast bowler from down south has proved to be a reliable workhorse for his team and will help captain Dinesh Chandimal in the two Tests against Bangladesh scheduled to take place in Chittagong from January 31-February 4 and Dhaka from February 8-12.

Whether Lakmal’s appointment is only for the Bangladesh series is a matter of conjecture for the Sunday Observer reliably learns that opener Dimuth Karunaratne’s name also figured prominently in the discussions.

Karunaratne will have his fourth opening partner in 12 months with Danushka Gunathilaka slotted into seeing off the new ball with him. Karunaratne had a prolific run in 2017 with over 1000 Test runs and has opened with Upul Tharanga, Kaushal Silva and Sadeera Samarawickrama in the past year. The selectors have opted for Gunathilaka instead of Kaushal Silva as they want a more enterprising batsman to support Karunaratne who is a solid player and one who plays the anchor role for his team. Gunathilaka they feel plays straighter than Samarawickrama or Kusal Perera and can still keep the scoreboard ticking.

The return of Kusal Mendis was quite obvious. He was given time off to get runs in domestic cricket and regain his confidence and that is what Mendis did stroking a magnificent 177 for CCC against Moors in a Premier league game last month to sound the selectors.

Asela Gunaratne who lost his place in the team due to a thumb injury fails to regain his position as the selectors have retained Roshen Silva after his gutty half-century against India at Delhi to draw the third Test last month.

The Lankan batting line up thus reads: Karunaratne, Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Mendis, Mathews, Dickwella, Roshen Silva/Dilruwan Perera plus four bowlers depending on the type of wickets they will get in Bangladesh.