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Naming of Kusal Janith Perera as new ODI skipper and Kusal Mendis as vice-captain the ultimate test

The naming of 30-year old cameo batsman Kusal Janith Perera as Sri Lanka’s new ODI captain and an out of form Kusal Mendis as his deputy by the new national selectors headed by Pramodya Wickramasinghe including head coach, South African Mickey Arthur in replacing Dimuth Kareunaratne who had a good record of 10 wins and 7 losses in getting back the country on to a heady track from a terrible past, it will certainly be the ultimate challenge for two relatively unknown quarters to come good. 

The major shakeup of the sacking of six regulars including Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal and Avishka Fernando who has done little wrong with the bat, but dumped over jogging fitness problems that also raises a relevant question of overlooking the paradigm yardstick of class that must surely rekindle a now infamous past of the dumping of star batsman Aravinda de Silva for the 1992 world cup escalating to a major row with skipper Arjuna Ranatunga ruling himself out in protest. While Aravinda went on to put to shame that selector decision by the cricketing virtue where ultimately form won over a negative selectors decision, it does bring full circle the reality as to the dumping of Avishka Fernando who had acquitted himself admirably as an opening batsman. One cannot but forget his rise in stature one of two world cup centurions of 114 against the West Indies, and characteristic effective run making further fine edged by 2 centuries and 3 half centuries from 18 appearances with a highest of 127 averaging a good 36.27 and stupendous strike rate of 96.59, and pertinetly whether at 23 years getting the chop was sensible or insensible.   

In the case of Angelo Mathews, while the ebbing from some brilliant performances in his prime with fitness problems and his former self as a bowler , his 2019 world cup performance being the only other centurion scoring 113 against India emerging as the batting mainstay in the extravaganza did set him apart as a player for big occasions. His dumping at age 33 kindles the selector feeling of accentuating on youth in a rebuild up investing on youth such as Ashen Bandara and Ramesh Mendis who have raised hope for the future by few appearances on sound Under-19 pedigrees internationally. .

While the new look squad for the three-match away ODI series against Bangladesh starting on May 23 is the culmination to the stated rebuilding for the next world cup accentuated on youth, indeed the bestowing of the big mantle on the head of the dashing stroe maker Kusal Janith Perera stirs the blood of great expectations given the breathtaking dash the left hander has infused to the game by bloody shot making that has set him apart. Translating that uncanny ability from a 43.06 average heightened by a 100 per cent strike rate in the 2019 world cup to the high spoils to delivering with the bat and leading from the front to a wining captain will be the demanding test. His career record is mounted on 2825 runs from 101 ODIs driven by 5 centuries and 14 half centuries and highest of 135 averaging a substantial 31.04 and strike rate of 92.59.

Similarly, it will be a type of make or break testing for Kusal Mendis to rise from a bad past of four consecutive ducks in his last four innings to repose the selector faith in an inherent magical batsman ship on which he cut loose to the game of great expectations he has failed to live up to.

  In naming a young squad, Sri Lanka’s new selection committee – headed by Pramodya Wickramasinghe – and coach Mickey Arthur have signalled they are seeking to aggressively develop a fresh set of limited-overs players with a view to the 2023 World Cup. Across the 18 players named, only 33-year-old Isuru Udana is older than 31, and just three players are above 30.

Squad: Kusal Perera (capt), Kusal Mendis (vice-capt), Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Pathum Nissanka, Dasun Shanaka, Ashen Bandara, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana, Akila Dananjaya, Niroshan Dickwella, Dushmantha Chameera, Ramesh Mendis, Asitha Fernando, Lakshan Sandakan, Chamika Karunaratne, Binura Fernando, Shiran Fernando

-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-

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