The four-man national selection committee headed by former Test star Aravinda de Silva has picked a fairly balanced side. If sanity prevails, one will understand why they left out stalwarts Chaminda Vaas and explosive opener Sanath Jayasuriya from the final squad.
The reason lies more in balance of the side and clearly identifying roles amongst a group of experienced and young players than pure emotions.
The other selection, which baffled many, was the exclusion of Suraj Randiv as left arm tweaker Rangana Herath nudged past him to secure his spot. However, Vaas, one of the most experienced new ball bowlers Sri Lanka ever produced, may still make the cut if there is an injury one of the new ball bowlers in Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara.
The right and left-handed combination of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga will open the batting. The middle order looks very experienced in deputy Mahela Jayawardene and skipper Sangakkara batting at number three and four respectively. Captain Sangakkara will do the wicket-keeping role in a bid to give more options to the side, abandoning to play purely as a batsman.
Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera are the all-rounders to choose from as they can help Sri Lanka with some lusty hitting down the order if the situation demands. Chamara Silva is likely to bat at number five position.
The bowling unit has a good mix of youth and experience, with Lasith Malinga and improved Nuwan Kulasekara sharing the brand new cherry and Rangana Herath and Muralitharan adding variety as the frontline spinners.
The mercurial paceman Dilhara Fernando, who has an uncanny ability to take wickets, can be tried with, as Ajantha Mendis could be lethal on pitches with variable bounce and turn.
Only Thilan Samaraweera, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath have been added to the squad that represented Sri Lanka in the three-match one-day series in Australia, which the visitors won 2-1, giving them their first ODI series win in Australia.
The only surviving member of the 1996 World Cup winning side is Muttiah Muralitharan who will feature for Sri Lanka for one final time.
Sri Lanka World Cup squad: Kumar Sangakkara (captain), Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath
Players to watch out for
Tillakaratne Dilshan could be devastating at the top of the order as holds no half measures, playing audacious strokes with unerring accuracy, with a penchant to hit through the cover point region. He is the inform player with 921 runs in 20 ODI innings at an impressive average of 51.16 which includes three tons.
Kumar Sangakkara will double up the responsibility of keeping wicket and leading the side; a fluent player on both sides of the wicket, his experience will be crucial, extremely vigilant behind the stumps with sharp reflexes, he could change the complexion of the match with a master stroke decision to ring the right bowling changes or influence a stumping or an out of the ordinary catch.
World Cup Stats: 576 runs in 21 matches with four half-centuries
Muttiah Muralitharan is the “go to man” for the Sri Lanka skipper Sangakkara. He would like to sign off the international cricket stage on a high. The 38-year-old smiling assassin has 517 ODI wickets in 339 matches. He is adept in any role from being a strike weapon to bowling miserly spells in the death overs.
Blessed with immaculate control and variation, he can bowl at any stage of the match. Add to that a safe pair of hands in the outfield to take catches and an ability to hit the stumps direct while fielding; he is “neighbours envy owners pride”.
World Cup Stats: 53 scalps in 31 matches, averaging 19.69 with the ball at an economy of 3.83.
26 February (D/N) Sri Lanka v Pakistan RPS, Colombo 2.30pm India, 9am GMT
1st March (D/N) Sri Lanka v Kenya RPS, Colombo 2.30pm India, 9am GMT
5th March (D/N) Sri Lanka v Australia RPS, Colombo 2.30pm India, 9am GMT
10th March (D/N) Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, Pallekele 2.30pm India, 9am GMT
18th March (D/N) Sri Lanka v New Zealand, Mumbai 2.30pm India, 9am GMT
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