Fast bowler Lasith Malinga has been recalled to a 16-man Sri Lanka squad for the Asia Cup, despite not having played in Sri Lanka’s provincial one-day tournament in May and June this year. Malinga, 35, has, however, consistently been playing domestic T20 cricket in Sri Lanka. He had last played an international in September last year.
Danushka Gunathilaka, who was suspended for the limited-overs leg of the recent South Africa series for breaking curfew on a Test-match night in July, is also back in the side, following good performances in the ongoing provincial T20 competition. But there is no such luck for legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay – another player who had recently been sanctioned over a disciplinary breach. Sri Lanka have instead opted for the left-arm spin of Amila Aponso, who has been in and out of the Sri Lanka team for the last two years, and the offspin of Dilruwan Perera, who last played limited-overs cricket in April 2017.
The specialist seam-bowling contingent, meanwhile, comprises of four players. In addition to Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera returns to the ODI side following an injury layoff, while Suranga Lakmal and Kasun Rajitha have also been named. There is no place for Lahiru Kumara, who played in the recent ODI series against South Africa.
There were no major surprises on the batting front. Shehan Jayasuriya, the spin-bowling allrounder, failed to retain his place following modest showings against South Africa, while seam-bowling allrounder Dasun Shanaka makes it to the squad thanks to his strong performances in the same series. Dinesh Chandimal, who sat out the series against South Africa largely due to an ICC-imposed spirit-of-cricket suspension, is back in the squad.
Malinga’s inclusion represents something of a climbdown for the selectors, who had long insisted that he plays in domestic cricket in order to stand a chance of being selected for the national team. Although Malinga has generally performed well in domestic T20 cricket this year, he had chosen to complete a consulting stint with Mumbai Indians at the IPL this year instead of playing the premier one-day tournament in the Sri Lanka domestic calendar. In July, coach Chandika Hathurusingha had also said that Malinga’s fielding needed to be of a good standard in order for him to be considered for selection, but importantly, neither Hathurusingha or the selectors had shut the door on him. In the ongoing T20 provincial competition Malinga has an economy rate of 8.62 – mostly bowling at the death – with three wickets in six games.
The Asia Cup will be played from September 15-28 in the UAE.
Sri Lanka squad: Angelo Mathews (capt), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Danushka Gunathilaka, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Dilruwan Perera, Amila Aponso, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Lasith Malinga