In only their fourth Test tour of the Caribbean in what will be the first involving more than two matches 36 years since gaining test status, Sri Lanka will aim for a tour triumph capitalizing on a disarrayed West Indies sans its star players when the two sides meet tomorrow June 6 at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad. For the record, the two countries will be renewing rivalry in West Indian terrain after a ten year hiatus when Mahela Jayawardene led a squad in 2008 in a 1-all shared rubber.
Interestingly, in what reflects the infrequency of international exchanges at that level between the two countries, Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal leads an exuberant pack of competent performers fired up on capitalizing on the state of uncertainty surrounding West Indies cricket where their star players continue to be ignored. Apart from the disarrayed factor of the opposition that the Lankan camp will be looking to cash on, Chandimal’s men will carry the buoying advantage of carrying the form of their last seven matches beaten just once, away to top-ranked India, and enjoyed an historic 2-0 triumph over Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates while defeating an improving Bangladesh side by the same margin in their last Test assignment in February. They will look to thrive on these plus factors in shrugging off injury setbacks to two key players namely opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne and pace bowler Nuwan Pradeep.
Meanwhile, the tour selectors were unlikely to include emerging batting star Dhananjaya de Silva who joined the squad on Monday following the fatal shooting of his father, but was expected to be certainly manning the pivotal No.3 slot for the second test at St. Lucia and the third and final first ever day/night test to be played in the West Indies. Seasoned campaigners in left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, former captain Angelo Mathews and fast-medium bowler Suranga Lakmal along with skipper Chandimal are expected to beef up a mainly fresher laden side that has begun to progressively gel. Sri Lanka also carry the advantage of having won 8 tests as against the West Indies 3 with 6 drawn of 17 test exchanges.
Despite a poor showing in their most recent Test series in New Zealand last December, the West Indies selectors have pinned faith on the bulk of the squad that had an unsuccessful tour of New Zealand last December thus trusting this cast will recapture the level of competitiveness they showed in earlier Test campaigns in 2017 against Pakistan, England and Zimbabwe. Thirty six year old opening batsman Devon Smith has been named in the 13-man squad on the strength of a prolific first-class season with the Windward Islands.
Both sides will be tested to the hilt by the turgid or inflated surface Queen’s Park Oval surface that encourages neither fast bowlers that will examine both the players stamina and concentration.
Sri Lanka – Dinesh Chandimal (Capt.), Kusal Mendis, Mahela Udawatte, Kusal Janith Perera, Roshen Silva, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk. Kpr), Dhananjaya de Silva, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Akia Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lahiru Gamage, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando.
West Indies: Jason Holder (Capt), Devendra Bishoo, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (wk. kpr), Shannon Gabriel, Jahmar Hamilton (wk. kpr.), Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Devon Smith.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-