Sri Lanka’s squad for the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England will comprise four additional players to the original team of 15.
All ten participating countries are allowed the maximum of 15 players in their squad for the mega event, but Sri Lanka Cricket has decided to send an additional four as standbys in case of injuries.
“The four additional players won’t be part of the World Cup squad but we want to keep them in case of injury to a player. We want the players to get used to the conditions and pitches in England so that if we require their services instead of flying them from Colombo they will be ready to play,” said chief selector Ashantha de Mel who will accompany the team as manager.
Knowing the history of the Lankan team in relation to injuries taking four standby players seems a wise move although it will be at SLC’s cost.
The recently concluded tour to South Africa although disappointing result-wise proved beneficial to the selectors according to De Mel to get a good idea of the combination they require and a look at some of the players.
“We understood that when it comes to really tough games we were found wanting. We gave the young boys a bit of exposure but going for the World Cup you need to balance the team with a little bit of experience as well,” said De Mel.
“Also we found 2-3 players that we wanted. Isuru Udana has come good, since 2012 he hasn’t played and we have got him into the squad. There is Oshada (Fernando) who came good and is likely to get into the one-day side. We also saw Avishka Fernando, a good player but he needs a little more time to get to the required level. He needs a bit more experience. Whatever we tried we found that some players were ready to go and some needed a little more experience. We are making a plan for the World Cup and it should be to win not to lose,” he said.
One of Sri Lanka’s major problems is the batsmen’s failure to put enough runs on the board.
“The crucial positions in the batting will be 4, 5 and 6. If they go hard at the top and lose one or two wickets 4, 5 and 6 must be able to consolidate and take it like what the other countries do. If you don’t go hard at the top also you can’t go for a big score. The minimum target today is 300 plus, if you don’t go hard at the top you end up with around 250. It is not easy to defend such a total with the bowling that we have, we need at least over 300 in order to make a game of it,” said De Mel.
“We got (Angelo) Mathews at five but the crucial position is whose going to bat at 6, then also at no. 3? If we are going to have an experienced player at 3 or go with somebody like Kusal Perera if he is fit, someone with experience who can go hard at the top. Those are the couple of things that we need to look at. Of the all-rounders Isuru Udana looks a good find, to bowl 10 overs and bat at no. 7 or 8 and score 30-40 runs makes a huge difference to a team,” continued De Mel.
“The other thing is to look at the two bowlers whom we want as spinners, a wrist spinner or off spinner. There are about four in contention, we have to select the two best who is bowling well and can take wickets in the middle overs. If we don’t take wickets in the middle overs we end up giving a lot of runs. The first 15 overs we give only 120 runs but the last five overs we give around 70 odd runs. The South African tour has helped us a lot to look at our combinations. We now have a fairly good idea of what we want, the final touches will be done after the provincial tournament. We want to select the squad somewhere around April 15,” he said. The provincial 50-over tournament will be played from April 4 to 11.
How will the selectors use the provincial tournament?
“We have a blue print of what we want. For instance we want certain batsmen in certain positions. We want to either bat them there and if there are 2-3 players we put all of them in the same position and see who comes out best. We want to see under pressure how they perform. When the pressure is on only the experience actually comes into play. The younger guys don’t understand how to handle the pressure, they must know how to build an innings and to graft for runs. Those are things that we are looking at not saying to go after the bowling right from the beginning,” said De Mel.
“There about 2-3 places we feel that are still open others are more or less we know what we want. There are key positions they are the ones we are looking at for instance no. 6 is a key position. That is the guy who takes off the pressure like MS Dhoni. We need that kind of a player in that position. In fast bowling we have 2-3 in line. We are trying to use the provincial tournament for a little bit of fine tuning and also the kind of players we need to take.”
De Mel who has the experience of playing in two World Cups including the one in 1983 in England where he was the second highest wicket-taker with 17 wickets from 6 matches after Indian Roger Binny’s 18 from 8 was confident that Sri Lanka would fare better on English pitches than the ones in South Africa.
“Generally I think in this World Cup we have a good chance. Nobody expected us to win the Test series in South Africa and England is a much easier place to play. South Africa is difficult because of the bounce and the pace. England in June it’s not that bouncy and our batsmen will find it much easier to bat,” said De Mel.
“In South Africa the ball generally doesn’t grip too much, it skids through and the spinners were taken apart. Because of the high altitude the ball travels a long distance than in other places. In England its heavy weather and the ball tends to grip a bit.
Our spinners might have a little bit more purchase from the surface.
I think the English conditions will suit our players a bit better. It is a case of trying to see how to get the balance right.”