Sri Lanka’s first Test squad of the Chandika Hathurusingha era features a more dynamic set of bowlers than they have recently fielded. It also sees the return of batsmen Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka.
There is an emphasis on pace, with Dushmantha Chameera and 20-year-old Lahiru Kumara being picked. But it is the first-time selection of unorthodox offspinner Akila Dananjaya that is the strongest indication that the selectors and new coach are looking at taking Sri Lanka’s attack in a new direction.
Dananjaya, who began as a T20 bowler, was thought of largely as a limited-overs option by previous selection committees. He has earned a Test call-up on the basis of decent ODI performances against India, however, and has a creditable first-class record (98 wickets at 28.31) behind him in any case. The prevailing thought about Dananjaya is that he is a player who raises his performance to fit the occasion. At the age of 19, he had been a steady contributor in Sri Lanka’s run to the 2012 World T20 final.
Alongside the likes of Chameera, Kumara and Dananjaya are more experienced hands. Suranga Lakmal has been rewarded for a good 2017 with the team’s vice-captaincy. Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera head up the spin department, with left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan also included. Right-arm seam bowler Lahiru Gamage has been picked as well.
There are notable omissions. Nuwan Pradeep has been left out, with the selectors seemingly now considering him for limited-overs duties alone, due largely to his propensity to pick up injuries in Test cricket. Allrounder Dasun Shanaka, who had some success with the ball against India, has been dropped, as has left-arm quick Vishwa Fernando. That batsmen Lahiru Thirimanne and Sadeera Samarawickrama were also dropped is little surprise, given their lack of runs in India, but more unexpected is the omission of allrounder Asela Gunaratne, and batsman Kusal Perera – both of whom are in the ODI squad.
Gunathilaka, who has been in modest form across formats, has been chosen, however – perhaps on potential. It is possible he will open the batting alongside Karunaratne.
The two-Test series begins in Chittagong on January 31, before the action moves to Dhaka.