Lasith Malinga. File Photo
Despite impressive returns in domestic cricket, fast bowler Lasith Malinga has failed to force his way back into Sri Lanka's T20 squad for the upcoming Nidahas Trophy. Sri Lanka's selectors named a 20-member preliminary pool ahead of the tournament but the 34-year-old Malinga wasn't part of their plans.
Sri Lanka's domestic T20 competition began on Saturday (February 24) and Malinga featured in all games of Nondescripts Cricket Club. Although he has taken ten wickets in three games, including three for 24 against Burgher Recreation Club on Tuesday, he was overlooked.
Chairman of Selectors Graham Labrooy told Cricbuzz that it wasn't the end of the road for Malinga. "He is certainly in our plans for 2019 World Cup, but we want him to play more games. We want him to play the current T20 competition and then the one-day tournament after that," Labrooy told Cricbuzz from Harare, where he will function as a Match Referee for the ICC World Cup qualifiers.
Malinga has struggled with his form and fitness since returning to competitive cricket after a long layoff due to a knee injury.
Dinesh Chandimal will continue to lead the side. The Test captain hasn't been in the team's plans for T20 cricket, but he replaced Angelo Mathews as captain when Sri Lanka's white ball captain had to return home early from Bangladesh with a hamstring injury. Under Chandimal, Sri Lanka won the tri-nation competition, Test series and the two-match T20 series.
Sri Lanka were hopeful that Mathews will recover in time for the Nidahas Trophy, but he picked up a fresh calf injury while going through an intensive rehabilitation process.
Young Sadeera Samarawickrama, one of the brightest prospects in the country was named in the preliminary squad after he smashed two half-centuries in three games for Colts Cricket Club, the same club as Mathews. The 22-year-old was excellent behind the stumps as well.
Fast bowler Lahiru Kumara was also named in the squad along with Kusal Janith Perera, Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera, players who picked up injuries during the Bangladesh series.
The Nidahas Trophy gets underway on March 6 in Colombo with the hosts taking on India.
Sri Lanka's Preliminary T20 squad:
Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Dasun Shanaka, Kusal Janith Perera, Thisara Perera, Jeewan Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Niroshan Dickwella, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Akila Dananjaya, Amila Aponso, Asitha Fernando, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep, Dushmantha Chameera and Dananjaya De Silva.