Sri Lanka names uncapped Madushka, Rathnayake for New Zealand Test tour

COLOMBO: Uncapped pair Nishan Madushka and Milan Rathnayake will be part of Sri Lanka’s 17-man Test squad set to tour New Zealand for two Tests in March. Also returning to the squad are Lahiru Kumara and Chamika Karunaratne, the latter who made his only Test appearance in 2019. Madushka, 23, seems to have entered the selectors’ minds after a series of impressive performances against the England Lions earlier this year. Having played for Sri Lanka A, he made innings of 241 and 100, while also hitting 150 against the same opposition while representing the Chairman of the Board’s XI.

His inclusion means Pathum Nissanka finds himself the odd man out. Nissanka had made an impressive start to his Test career, scoring 537 runs in 15 innings, and was the main stay in the Lankan top-order until mid-2022. Then a subpar performance against Australia at home, where he scored just 43 streak in three innings —- coupled with a bout of Covid-19 — saw him omitted for Sri Lanka’s next two Tests against Pakistan. He has since made his mark in the white-ball format, but Madushka’s recent form has proved hard to ignore.

Along with Nissanka, Maheesh Theekshana, Lakshitha Manasinghe, Jeffrey Vandersay, Dunith Wellalage and Dilshan Madushanka are also out. Apart from Nissanka and seamer Madushanka, the rest are all spin bowlers with only Wellalage offering something with the bat. With New Zealand’s conditions expected to favor seam and bounce, Sri Lanka have rightly sought to ditch spin in favor of pace. Rathnayake’s inclusion is a little more straightforward. The 26-year-old was the pick of the seam bowlers against the England Lions, and while he is unlikely to be called up, he will provide adequate support to Sri Lanka’s other five seam-bowling options – Kasun Rajitha, Asitha Fernando. , Vishwa Fernando, and the returning pair of Kumara and Karunaratne, who is also a capable lower-order player. Slow left-armer Prabath Jayasuriya will be the lone front-line spinner, although the part-time off spin of Ramesh Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva and Kamindu Mendis can also be used if required.

Up front, Sri Lanka boast a relatively solid unit, led by captain Dimuth Karunaratne. Oshada Fernando is capable of batting anywhere at the top of the order, although it is his position that may be threatened by Madushka. Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal will provide middle-order experience with the bats, while in Kusal Mendis, Sri Lanka have a man in red-hot form – albeit in white-ball cricket. Dhananjaya, Kamindu and Niroshan Dickwella complete the list. Sri Lanka recently completed a training exercise at Randella – about 4000 feet above sea level – to simulate conditions close to New Zealand. The first test is in Christchurch, from March 9.

Sri Lanka XI: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Kamindu Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Nishan Madushka, Ramesh Mendis, Prabath Jayasuriya, Chamika Karunhiru Kuunarate, Asitha Fernando, Vishwa Fernando and Milan Rathnayake.