Kusal Perera in line for a Test cap against India

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

The retirement of Kumar Sangakkara will now allow Sri Lanka to settle into a team for the future. Although the decisive third and final Test against India may not be the one these changes may take place it will no doubt give an indication to what the composition of future teams will be.

“We’re trying to get our combination right to see who is best in what position. We’ll have to give it a bit more time for that, and then try and stick to a combination,” said Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews at the pre-match press conference.

“In the past two series we’ve not made too many changes in our batting line up, but with Kumar Sangakkara retiring now, we’ve got an opportunity to test those players in different positions. We will try that out.

“We’ve got different characters in the team – some are quite slow, some are very attacking. You’ve got to slot them out in those positions where the team is benefitting at the end. You need to give it a bit more thought and we’ll try and find the best position for those individuals.” Mathews said.

“The rest of us that are left have not played too many Tests. The team we have now can do that. We’re trying to find a good batting order. We don’t have a set batting order yet.”

Mathews said that he was quite comfortable batting at number five, but he was flexible according to the team’s requirements.

“I actually don’t mind batting at 4 or 5 or 6 or whatever. It depends on what the team needs. It depends on where we want to slot other guys as well. We need to get that balance right. I’m not trying to go up or down too much, because I’m scoring runs at no. 5 at the moment. If needed, I’ll bat at no. 4.”

The only place that is confirmed is that left-hander Upul Tharanga will take the place of Sangakkara at number three.

“In his last match he hit a couple of 45s. He went out only because Sangakkara came in.”

With the series nicely poised at one-all with everything to play for at the SSC grounds Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews sounded optimistic

“It’s going to be a very important game. It’s going to be a decider. The wicket looks pretty good. It looks a sporty wicket. There’s a little bit of grass. We just have to play positive cricket. The batters have to look to score runs, bowlers take wickets and get the basics right,” said Mathews.

“The last game we played here was against Pakistan, if I am not mistaken they have relaid the wicket and it has a bit more carry. It’s an SSC wicket and with this heat it’s going to be a good track. As of now there’s a bit of grass on the wicket but it shouldn’t do too much. You can’t really predict a wicket 100%. We just have to play it by ear.”

Apart from Tharanga, Sri Lanka are also looking at a few more changes to the side.

“We’re giving the others a bit more thought. We have an injury concern as well in Tharindu Kaushal. He’s injured his thumb. We’re just waiting for the physio’s report on that,” said Mathews.

Kaushal picked up the injury while batting in the Sri Lanka second innings of the second Test at the P Sara Oval which they lost by 278 runs.

If he doesn’t pull through off-spinner Dilruwan Perera will replace him.

With Nuwan Pradeep fit there is a likelihood of him replacing Dushmantha Chameera who was inconsistent with his line and length at the P Sara Oval.

“He’s still young and inexperienced. We need to give him a bit of time to settle in. He bowled really well in patches, but not as much as he would have liked to,” said Mathews.

“So is Tharindu Kaushal. He has taken a lot of wickets in the last few games he has played but he’s still raw. Those two are very exciting prospects for Sri Lanka cricket, but we still need to give them some time to settle in and at the same time be patient with them,” he said.

Further wicket-keeper batsman Kusal Perera might find himself in the final eleven ahead of Jehan Mubarak who had a poor game in the second Test. Perera who has yet to play in a Test if selected will probably take over the wicket-keeping gloves from Dinesh Chandimal allowing the latter to concentrate on his batting.

“You can’t really find a perfect time to bring a player into the team. There are seniors, there are guys who have played and you can’t just chop and change them in one or two games,” explained Mathews on why Perera has been kept waiting for his first Test cap.

“Sometimes you may not get the chance when you’re in form. Sometimes you might have to play when you’re rusty. You’ve got to test your character. Whenever he gets the opportunity I’m pretty sure that he’ll come good. He’s also a young exciting player. We’re not afraid to take chances with that kind of player.”

Both Sri Lanka and India are going through a team rebuilding process and Mathews said that he did not see any similarities between the two sides.

“Both teams have got young batsmen and bowlers, who haven’t played that many Test matches. They are still finding their way in Test cricket. It’s good to have results. That’s what we play for. In a rebuilding phase you’ve got to be patient, win or lose. Do your processes right and the results will follow. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking to get the correct combination and stick with it. Both teams are trying to find their combinations.”