Spin-heavy SL confident of success at T20 World Cup

Spin-heavy SL confident of success at T20 World Cup


SLC also believes they have enough power-hitters in the team "capable of meeting any challenge".

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COLOMBO (Web Desk) - While the ongoing IPL may be a certifiable run-fest, the current school of thought surrounding the upcoming T20 World Cup is that conditions in the USA and Caribbean might be a little less batter-friendly. At least, that's the working assumption Sri Lanka's selectors were going on when they named their 15-man squad for the tournament.

"If you look at the conditions in America and the West Indies, most of it is pointing towards the wickets there being quite slow," chief selector Upul Tharanga said at a media briefing on Monday.

"The Major League tournament was played in Dallas with drop-in pitches. If you look at those, even though they're being brought down from Australia they are still quite uneven and a little slow. This could of course change, so it's a little hard to predict."

It's this line of thinking that has seen them stock their squad with spin-bowling options. While Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana will lead the line, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kamindu Mendis, Charith Asalanka and Dunith Wellalage all offer all-round options, while Vijayakanth Viyaskanth is among the travelling reserves.


Among the main beneficiaries of Sri Lanka's focus on spin have been Dhananjaya and Wellalage.

A lack of power-hitting pedigree has seen the 32-year-old Dhananjaya struggle to become a mainstay of the T20 side, while his position in the batting line-up has also yo-yoed. Over the past four years, he's batted in each of the top seven positions, though primarily in the middle order, and of Sri Lanka's nine T20Is this year he's only played in four of them. As for Wellalage, he is yet to debut for Sri Lanka in T20Is, though he has 21 ODIs and a solitary Test to his name.

But despite this lack of game time, both have been included in Sri Lanka's squad, and Tharanga explained that it was their versatility that cemented their inclusion.

"There could be a chance that we play three spinners sometimes. Looking at that is why we picked Dunith, particularly his batting, because sometimes we could go with him ahead of a fast-bowling allrounder.

"As for Dhananjaya, we value his bowling. And with regard to power-hitting, we think we can get that from elsewhere in the side. In terms of his all-round input, and taking into consideration the conditions, he was a better option."

Tharanga also revealed that the uncapped Viyaskanth, who had impressed in the LPL in recent seasons as well as the ILT20 earlier this year, had been picked as a travelling reserve ahead of the likes of Jeffrey Vandersay and Akila Dananjaya owing to him being more suited to the conditions.

"Viyaskanth is taller and has a higher arm action, and because of that we thought he would suit the West Indian conditions better. Along with Viyaskanth, we looked at Akila Dananjaya and Jeffrey Vandersay, and compared to them Viyaskanth has bowled more in franchise cricket, and so we think he's best suited to fill in in the case of any injury."


The build-up to the World Cup - in the shadow of the IPL - has brought with it a certain degree of uncertainty over what the scoring will be like at the tournament, with ground averages perhaps no longer a reliable indicator of scoring patterns considering the kind of uber aggressive batting seen in the IPL so far.

In this vein, there were questions over the selection of Dhananjaya over more explosive options like Kusal Janith Perera and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (travelling reserve). The selectors, though, were confident that the team selected has the firepower needed to go deep in the tournament.

"If you look at scores in the West Indies historically, as well as the US, average scores are around 160. But until we play on them we won't know how such wickets behave. But I do believe that this a team capable of meeting any challenge."

Speaking further on Perera's axing, Tharanga said it was down to his recent lack of form, while he added that Bhanuka had been kept as a reserve as there were enough power hitters in the side already.

"From the 15 players we've selected I think we have the necessary power in the side in terms of batters. In the opening slots we have Kusal Mendis and Pathum Nissanka, then we have Kamindu Mendis, Charith [Asalanka], there's Wanindu and Dasun Shanaka. So we have faith that we can cover the power side of the game with those players."


Janith Liyanage was not part of the initial 25-man shortlist the selectors had identified as potential candidates for their final squad, but such has been the strength of his performances in ODIs - he has scored three fifties and a century in six innings since debuting in March of this year - they had been urged to reconsider his role in shortest format.

As such, Liyanage, despite having played the last of his three T20Is back in February 2022, has been named one for four travelling reserves.

"He wasn't selected in the initial 25-man list because we thought we could go forward with those selections. But in the games following that decision, Janith performed very well," Tharanga explained.

"This meant that some of the seniors and coaches in the side asked again if it was possible to take Janith for the tournament."


Matheesha Pathirana had impressed in his second IPL campaign, picking up 13 wickets for Chennai Super Kings in six games before being sidelined with a hamstring strain. According to Tharanga, they are hopeful of the slinger being fit for the start of the tournament but will have to wait on the final medical report before identifying a clear timeline for his return.

He is one of five seamers Sri Lanka will be taking to the US, alongside fellow slinger Nuwan Thushara, Dilshan Madushanka, Dushmantha Chameera and travelling reserve Asitha Fernando.

In those, Tharanga believes there is enough to trouble opposition batters in all phases of play.

"We have players to bowl at the death, but it's in the powerplay that we need to focus on picking up wickets. So for that we have Madushanka and then as travelling reserve we have Asitha.

"If we take our side, Thushara, Pathirana they can bowl in the death overs. But we needed someone that could come in if we needed a wicket-taking option with the new ball, which is why we went with Asitha [as a reserve over Binura Fernando]."