Colombo: Sanath Jayasuriya has rejected a suggestion by the selectors to vacate his opening slot and move to the middle-order, national selector Aravinda de Silva said Wednesday.
Having resigned as Sri Lanka’s captain earlier this month, Jayasuriya was asked by the selectors if he would agree to bat down the order.
The selectors’ move was aimed at bolstering the middle-order, but Jayasuriya refused to play ball. Despite starting his international career as a middle-order batsman, it was after moving to the opening position that Jayasuriya made a big impact.
“There’s a bit of a problem with our middle-order. We had a chat with Sanath to see whether he’d like to bat lower down the order,” said De Silva, who was inducted into the new selection panel when he retired from international cricket last month.
Veteran batsman De Silva departure contributed to Sri Lanka’s middle-order woes. Adding to that is the poor form of Russel Arnold, who after four years finds himself out of the squad to play New Zealand in the opening Test of the two-match series that begins in Colombo on Friday.
“Sanath’s more comfortable to open the innings and he’ll continue to do so with Maravan Attapattu,” De Silva told reporters.
New skipper Hashan Tillekeratne would now be heard before selectors finalised the line-up, changing a policy where the selectors used to name a team and ask the skipper to lead it.
“The team management will now have a big say in picking the side,” said De Silva, who confessed this was not the case during his long stint with the Sri Lankan team.
“In the past, captains were not always satisfied with the teams that were given to them. Now they’ll have a larger say,” he said. “Based on my own experience, I hope this eases the pressure on the captain.”
With the middle-order still unsettled, the selectors have named seven specialist batsmen in the 15-member squad for the opening Test.
Mahela Jayawardene, whose dismal World Cup performance led to his ouster from the four-nation tournament in Sharjah earlier this month, makes a comeback after posting a century in a warm-up game last weekend. Jayawardene averaged just three runs in nine matches during the Cup.
The selectors have recalled seasoned wicketkeeper-batsman Romesh Kaluwitharana, a member of the 1996 World Cup winning side who missed out on selection for the premier limited-over tournament this year.
Led by lefthander Tillekeratne, Sri Lanka will go into the match without pacer Dilhara Fernando, who has been ruled out due to a back injury.
Replacing him in the squad is rookie pacer Darshana Gamage. Another new face in the side is leg spinner Kaushal Lokuarachchi.