By Srian Obeyesekere reporting from Sharjah
All-rounder Thisara Perera will captain Sri Lanka in the 3-match T20 series against Pakistan. In a necessary change triggered by circumstances it marks a self admittedly turning point dream come true for the 28-year old Perera who has readily put his hat in the ring to marshal a new look team in Lahore for the third T20 on October 27. Already glowing accolades have begun to be showered by a joyous Pakistan on the Sri Lankan cricket management Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) following the naming of the squad. The bold decision by SLC with its President Thilanga Sumathipala showing the way when he will accompany the squad to Lahore follows the controversial decisions by regular captain Upul Tharanga and five others namely Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Chamara Kapugedara, Akila Dananjaya and Suranga Lakmal making themselves unavailable to play in Lahore. Two of them Kapugedera and Lakmal were in the team bus that came under terrorist fire in Lahore in 2009. Head Coach Nic Pothas and physiotherapist Nirmalan Thanabalasingham have also made themselves unavailable for the Lahore match.
Consequently, nine replacement new named are opening batsman Dnushka Gunathilake, Ashan Priyanjan, Mahela Udawatte, Dasun Shanaka, Minod Bhanuka (wkt Kpr.) Sachith Pathirana, Vikuma Sanjaya, Isuru Udana and Chathuranga de Silva. Among those who have done duty in the ODI series include new cap Sadeera Samarawickrema, Lahiru Gamage, Seekuge Prasanna, Vishwa Fernando and Jeffrey Vandersay.
The new skipper Perera was quick to respond buoyantly saying that it was literally the biggest moment in his cricketing career to be bestowed the honour of leading his motherland. “It is the highest tribute a player can expect in his cricketing career to captain his country, and I am delighted about the good news. I am positive that the squad is quite talented, and am confident of playing to win in the 3-match series,”quipped Perera soon after his appointment. The all-round batsman-bowler counts 60 T20 internationals.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s gesture to pick a rehashed squad with the Lahore match in mind has brought cricket crazy Pakistan alive at what has been largely described as a turnaround decision by Sri Lanka Cricket. Observers here in Sharjah to watch the ODI series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan see it as a milestone decision by SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala and his executive committee in coming to Pakistan’s aid to restore cricket.
Ms. Fazeela Saba, Chief Executive of Stadeum, a news agency in Pakistan told me that it was a magnanimous move by Sri Lanka. “It will go a long way to convincing other countries to visit Pakistan to play international cricket. It would be the turning point to reviving cricket in my country,” Fazeela said.
Sri Lanka’s T20I squad
Thisara Perera (capt), Dilshan Munaweera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Ashan Priyanjan, Mahela Udawatte, Dasun Shanaka, Minod Bhanuka (wk), Sachith Pathirana, Vikum Sanjaya, Lahiru Gamage, Seekkuge Prasanna, Vishwa Fernando, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay and Chaturanga de Silva.
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-