By contrast, Rajapaksa can file his inclusion under fortunate, following a series of uninspiring displays. His retention in the T20I squad follows an LPL in which he scored just 95 runs across seven innings at a strike rate of 105.55 – far below his career strike rate of 135.09 – while his T20 World Cup form was only slightly better, hitting 125 runs across seven innings at 119.04.
Avishka Fernando, who returned to action this month following nearly a year out with a knee injury, hasn’t skipped a beat it seems, top scoring in the LPL with 339 runs, and spearheading yet another Jaffna Kings title charge.
Like Samarawickrama, Nuwanidu was another blink that caught the eye in the LPL – even if he is a little rough around the edges. While his Galle Gladiators side struggled for inconsistency, the 23-year-old managed to stand out, striking 211 runs at a 131.05 strike rate-and most importantly showing an ability to clear the ropes, especially against spinners.
Nuwan Thushara was another standout Galle star hamstrung by his side’s erraticism, picking up 14 wickets – the second-highest in this year’s LPL – at an economy rate of 7.44. His low-slinging action has unsurprisingly brought about comparisons to Lasith Malinga, but while Thushara lacks the latter’s pace, he has now begun incorporating an impressive amount of control and variety to his repertoire.
With Kasun Rajitha, Pramod Madushan, Dilshan Madushanka and Lahiru Kumara the other seamers in the squad, Thushara will undoubtedly face stern competition for the starting XI, though his unique skillset could bode in his favour. In the ODIs, Madushanka’s left-arm swing provides a key differential.
In the spin department, it’ll be Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana as the first-choice pairing, though in Vandersay lies an able 50-over deputy. Dunith Wellalage, meanwhile, showcased during the LPL his ability to hold down one end with his slow left-arm spin.
Where most of Sri Lanka’s decision making will therefore boil down to, is in the batting. Shanaka, who hasn’t had the most encouraging time with the bat lately, will lead a unit brimming with potential.
In Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis and Avishka, Sri Lanka have three form players vying for two spots at the top of the order. If Avishka is pushed down to No.3 to accommodate the former two, a pair that has built a good understanding over the past few months, then that would bring about a middle-order headache.
Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Ashen Bandara, Samarawickrama, Shanaka and Rajapaksa/Nuwanidu will all be fighting for three to four positions, with allrounders such as Karunaratne, Wellalage and Hasaranga filling out the lower-middle order slots. With planning for the 2023 World Cup starting now, selectors will no doubt see this India tour as a marker for how the team will look come October.
Sri Lanka will kickstart their tour of India in the first T20I at the Wankhede Stadium on January 3.
T20I Squad: Dasun Shanaka (capt.), Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama. Kusal Mendis, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga (Vice Captain), Ashen Bandara, Maheesh Theekshana, Chamika Karunaratne, Dilshan Madushanka, Kasun Rajitha, Dunith Wellalage, Pramod Madushan, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Thushara
ODI squad: Dasun Shanaka (capt.), Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama. Kusal Mendis (Vice Captain), Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga, Ashen Bandara, Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Chamika Karunaratne, Dilshan Madushanka, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwanidu Fernando, Dunith Wellalage, Pramod Madushan, Lahiru Kumara