Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Ashen Bandara, Nuwan Thushara and Jeffrey Vandersay missed out from the squad that toured India in January.
Mathews and Perera’s inclusions follow an abysmal ODI tour of India earlier this year, following which there were calls to pick more seniors in a World Cup year.
Perera’s recall comes despite him not having played much following 16 months of recovery from a shoulder injury. Even though Sri Lanka might consider him as a potential option for the ODI World Cup in India in October and November, he is only part of the T20 squad at present to manage his workload.
Mathews has not turned out for the white-ball sides since Sri Lanka toured the West Indies in March 2021. His most recent limited-overs experience came in two games for Sri Lanka A against England Lions in which he scored a fifty, and the Lanka Premier League, where he struck 201 runs at an average of 40.20 for the Colombo Stars. While he has improved his fitness over the past year, he is not seen as a consistently reliable seam-bowling option.
Among most high-profile exclusion is that of Avishka, who had recently returned to the national setup for the India tour on the back of an impressive LPL, where he finished as the tournament’s top scorer. He also made 67 and 150 in the recent NSL 4-day tournament. However, a poor showing in India combined with sub-par outings against Lions – not to mention stiff competition for top-order places – means that the selectors were left with little choice but to omit him.
Rajapaksa’s omission is less vexing, with the batter in recent months a shadow of the player that was voted Player of the Match in the 2022 Asia Cup final.
How the rest of the squads shape up
The rest of Sri Lanka’s squad looks relatively settled. Both sides will be captained by Dasun Shanaka, with the likes of Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Sadeera Samarawickrama and Chamika Karunaratne making up a bulk of the batting in both white-ball teams.
Karunaratne, who also bowls seam, is part of a pace unit that includes Kasun Rajitha, Dilshan Madushanka, Lahiru Kumara, Pramod Madushan and Pathirana – all of whom have been named in both squads. Dushmantha Chameera had initially been earmarked to play, but the selectors are managing his game time due to his history of injury issues.
“The bowler will not be able to tour, as he is still undergoing his structured return-to-play program, a part of his rehabilitation program, following his left ankle surgery,” SLC said. Madushan has taken his place in the T20I side, while Pathirana replaces him in the ODI squad.
Thushara, though, might count himself a unlucky, having not played a game against India despite a solid LPL. Sri Lanka are spoilt for choice in the seam-bowling department, and in Pathirana they already have another slinger who offers a bit more pace.
There are no surprises among the spinners with Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana joined by the young allrounder Dunith Wellalage. Vandersay misses out by virtue of Sri Lanka not needing an extra spin option in New Zealand.
Sri Lanka will play three ODIs and three T20Is against New Zealand, with the ODI leg starting on March 25 in Auckland. The T20Is will begin on April 2.
T20 squad: Dasun Shanaka (capt.), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (wk), Dhananjaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Kusal Janith Perera, Lasith Croospulle, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Nuwanidu Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Dilshan Madushanka, Chamika Karunaratne, Matheesha Pathirana, Pramod Madushan.
ODI squad: Dasun Shanaka (capt.), Pathum Nissanka, Nuwanidu Fernando, Kusal Mendis (wk), Angelo Mathews, Charith Asalanka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya De Silva, Sahan Arachchige, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dunith Wellalage, Maheesh Theekshana, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Pramod Madushan, Dilshan Madushanka, Chamika Karunaratne, Matheesha Pathirana.
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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