By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka one-up in the two-match series and with an eye on becoming the first holders of the inaugural Sobers-Tissera trophy have dropped their out of form vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanne and off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal for the second Test against West Indies starting at the P Sara Oval on Thursday.
Their places have been given to uncapped 20-year-old right-hander Kusal Mendis who will occupy the important no. 3 slot and off-spinner Dilruwan Perera who has been recalled to the side after missing the last six Tests.
“Kusal has earned his place and hopefully he’ll grab his place. We can’t put a lot of pressure on him and we can’t expect him to do wonders,” said Mathews.
“There will be nervous times for him but we’re there to help him out as a team and as a captain. He’s got the talent. We’re hopeful that he’ll come out good.”
Veteran spinner Rangana Herath has taken over duties as Mathews’ deputy.
“Thirimanne was appointed as vice-captain only for one year. As he has been dropped from this Test we have made Herath the vice-captain. When Thirimanne gets into the side he will regain his vice captaincy,” said Mathews.
“We have abandoned the idea of playing Thirimanne in the no. 3 position. We are looking at making a couple of changes Thirimanne and Kaushal for Dilruwan and Kusal Mendis,” Mathews said.
By playing Kusal Mendis, Sri Lanka will have a few players with only a handful of Test experience but Mathews said that Sri Lanka were in a position where they will have to take that gamble.
“We had lots of debate on that sometimes you’ve just got to give it a go. We are in a position where we have to make changes. Sometimes a change is refreshing on those players failing quite a lot in the recent past,” said Mathews.
“When you hit a rough patch you need a break. They are good players they will always come back hard. I am pretty sure that Thirimanne will bounce back really hard. At the moment we haven’t got any choices we just have to make that call.”
The left-hander has made only two half-centuries in his last 28 Test innings.
Mathews expects the Oval pitch to produce more bounce than at Galle which should suit his seamers who have been bowling pretty well.
“The wicket generally has a little bit of bounce than Galle but it looks really dry so the spinners will come into play,” observed Mathews.
“Our fast bowlers have been bowling really well even though they haven’t got too many wickets. Dhammika (Prasad) has been brilliant over the past few games taking 3-4 wickets all the time and Nuwan Pradeep is bowling equally well. All the bowlers are capable of taking five wickets.
“But regardless of the wicket we have to play good cricket. We got to pick a team where we can win the game and I am pretty sure if we play to our potential we can beat them.”
After their innings loss at Galle Mathews said he expected West Indies to come back hard at them and looked forward to a good challenge.
Sri Lanka XI: Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews (captain), Milinda Siriwardana, Kusal Perera, Dhammika Prasad, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Nuwan Pradeep.