Sri Lanka’s national spin coach Piyal Wijetunge will be travelling with the A team to India later this month, with new head coach Roy Dias stressing on the need to get frontline spinners Akila Dananjaya and Lakshan Sandakan back and firing.
Wijetunge has been working closely with struggling Dananjaya after the off-spinner remodelled his action at the start of the year following an ICC ban. He has picked up just three wickets in his last seven limited-overs internationals. Wristspinner Sandakan, meanwhile, has picked up six wickets in nine ODIs since the start of last year, four of which came against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in January 2018.
With both players missing out on Sri Lanka’s World Cup squad, Dias believes having Wijetunge on tour will greatly benefit the pair, especially against a quality India A batting unit.
“Akila and Lakshan Sandakan are very important for Sri Lanka Cricket in the future, which is why Piyal is with me. The both of us will work together to make sure they come back strongly,” explained Dias at media briefing in Colombo.
“[Akila has been] working on it [his action] with Piyal Wijetunge for some time now, and that’s one of the main reasons we’re taking him on the tour. This will also be an ideal tour for them because the Indian players are very good against spin, so we can see how they fare there.”
Dananjaya, Dias revealed, has also been working on his batting, which going forward could provide an added route into the national side with the national selectors having previously stated their desire for more spin-bowling allrounders to choose from.
“Right now we have Lakshan Sandakan, Akila Dananjaya and Malinda Pushpakumara [as our frontline spinners on tour] but I wouldn’t say they’re spinning allrounders as such. Only person you can think as a spinning allrounder is Akila. Right now he’s batting well, so most probably he can be a spinning allrounder for Sri Lanka.”
On the injury front, Lasith Embuldeniya and Dushmantha Chameera have withdrawn from the squad. Embuldeniya, who had trained with the squad after recovering from a dislocated thumb, had shown some discomfort in the field, while Chameera suffered a recurrence of a niggling back injury. Embuldeniya will be replaced by Malinda Pushpakumara, while Chameera’s replacement is yet to be decided.
“Lasith practiced with us and we felt that he’s not 100 percent, we were worried about his fielding,” Dias said. “There’s this emerging team to South Africa and we thought that would be a good opportunity for him, especially after he had picked up five wickets there for the national side there recently.
“Chameera has picked up an injury as well, and we will need to select a replacement. He’s most probably out of the whole tour. The prognosis is that he’ll take at least two weeks to heal.”
Sri Lanka will play two four-day games and five one-dayers over the three-week long tour, with the first four-day match set to take place in Belgaum on May 25. Both squads, which will be captained by Ashan Priyanjan, have a blend of international experience and youth with no less than 13 players having played for the national team.
However, while the team are going in with every intention of winning, Dias, who took over the reins last month, is hopeful of giving as much game time as possible to his new charges.
“The places that we’re going to play it’s the first time we’re playing there, but we’ll have two practice days so we can see what the wickets are like and decide on the composition of the team. Definitely our idea is to give everyone a game, because there’s no point taking players and keeping them on the bench.
“We have five one-dayers, and just two four-day matches; it’s not going to be easy to play everyone in those two games, but we’ll try our best. Because this is the beginning for the most of them, especially guys like Pathum Nissanka, Kamindu Mendis, and also Sangeeth Cooray.”
Ashan Priyanjan (Capt.), Pathum Nissanka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Sangeeth Cooray, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Kamindu Mendis, Priyamal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Malinda Pushpakumara, Chamika Karunaratne, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Lahiru Kumara
Ashan Priyanjan (Capt.), Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Pathum Nissanka, Kamindu Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Ishan Jayaratne, Chamika Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara