Sri Lanka recall Lakshan, Rajitha, Kumara for Afghanistan ODIs

Just a day after the first ODI, Sri Lanka have finally announced a 15-man squad for their three-match home series against Afghanistan. Four withdrawals have been made in the squad that played against Australia earlier this year, with Dhananjaya Lakshan, Kasun Rajitha, Ashen Bandara and Lahiru Kumara earning recalls.

This means there is no place for Chamika Karunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Nuwan Thushara, Ramesh Mendis, Praveen Jayawickrama, Jeffrey Vandersay and Lahiru Madushanka. Pace spearhead Dushmantha Chameera, meanwhile, is missing surgery in Australia recently due to a long-standing injury problem.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa – who was initially included in the squad – requested his release to take a break from ODI cricket.

The squad’s delayed announcement arose from the country’s sports minister’s refusal to ratify it – a requirement under Sri Lanka’s sporting regulations – until an explanation of Karunaratne’s dropping was given.

Karunaratne has since been handed a one-year suspension for breaching Sri Lanka’s player agreement at the T20 World Cup in Australia. His omission from the squad followed a run of disappointing performances in T20Is this year, although he had received two Player-of-the-Match awards during the ODI leg of the Australia Series.

Lakshan is included as a like-for-like replacement for Karunaratne. The 24-year-old bowling all-rounder has been in fine form with the bat recently in Sri Lanka’s first-class setup, having initially broken onto the circuit during the inaugural edition of the 2020 LPL with some impressive performances with both bat and ball . No doubt he will hope to make a claim for a more permanent spot in Sri Lanka’s white-ball side.

Another player to keep an eye on is young Dunith Wellalage, who put up promising all-round performances against Australia earlier this year.

The in-form Kusal Mendis, meanwhile, will lead a batting unit that also includes Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Ashen Bandara and skipper Dasun Shanaka.

Wanindu Hasaranga, who is also proficient with the bat, and Maheesh Theekshana will lead the spin bowling contingent, with the likes of Wellalage and de Silva providing support when needed.

Kumara, Rajitha, Pramod Madushan and Asitha Fernando will form the pace attack, with Shanaka and Lakshan providing part-time options.

Selection: Dasun Shanaka (capt), Pathum Nissanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dunith Wellalage, Dananjaya Lakshan, Kasun Rajitha, Maheesh Theekshana, Pramod Madushan, Asitha Fernando, Ashen Bandara, Lahiru Kumara