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By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Sri Lanka’s Twenty20 captain Lasith Malinga said that the selectors were using the two T20 internationals against Pakistan at the R Premadasa Stadium on Thursday and Saturday to have a look at new players ahead of the World T20 tournament in India next year.

“There are a lot of new players, and that’s a good thing for Sri Lankan cricket. We have about six months until the next World T20. When we are preparing to play a World Cup, we have to know how much of that format we’ll be playing, and what opportunities we will have to look at the players we are thinking of using,” said Malinga at a pre-match press conference.

“There’s no domestic T20 league between now and the World Cup. So we have to choose the players who have shown talent in the last season and work out whether they are suitable for international cricket. We need to work out which players we can take forward into the World Cup.

“I’d like to pick a good team and play the same players consistently in the approach to the World Cup. Now is the best time to experiment. The selectors spoke knowledgably and sensibly about the road ahead, and I’m happy with the current team. They’re all talented cricketers,” he said.

There has been a lot of criticism in the local media on the exclusion of batsmen Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne both of whom figured at the last WorldT20 which was won by Sri Lanka.

“We know there are two players who have played for us since 2010, who are not in this squad. We know their talents. We don’t need to look at them again. What we need is for players who have done well in domestic tournaments to come into the Sri Lanka side,” said Malinga.

“All the new players have done well in the domestic tournament. Dhananjaya (de Silva), Shehan (Jayasuriya) and Milinda Siriwardana have done well and they need to get an opportunity in international cricket. This is the opportunity for them. They are looking forward to performing well,” he said.

Speaking about his personal fitness and performance Malinga said, “My injury isn’t 100 percent healed. After my surgery I played the World Cup almost immediately. After having not bowled for a month and a half, I came into the team and got the most wickets for Sri Lanka. I’m happy about that. But I still wasn’t able to give 100 per cent.

“There may be better players than me in Sri Lanka, and I’d like to give them a fight. That’s how you get better. In this series, there is a limit of four overs, so I think I’ll be able to bowl.”

Malinga was dropped from the team for the fifth and final ODI against Pakistan after a poor series where he took only four wickets in four matches but yet finished as Sri Lanka’s leading wicket-taker.

“Hopefully in the future I can rejoin the one-day team after I work on my fitness. If the selectors and captain feel I’m good enough, I’ll look forward to playing. I don’t have huge expectations. I’ll play the matches as I get them,” Malinga said.

The two countries have met in 12 T20 Internationals with Pakistan winning 7 and Sri Lanka 5.