Upul Tharanga and Ajantha Mendis appointed to Sri Lanka’s five-man selection panel

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The decision over the new committee was taken after SLC had nominated a list of names to Sri Lanka’s newly appointed sports minister Harin Fernando. Under Sri Lanka’s sports law, the sports minister is solely vested with the power to appoint selection committees. It is understood that SLC was in favour of the outgoing committee, headed by Pramodya Wickramasinghe, carrying on in the lead up to next year’s T20 World Cup, however Fernando decided fresh faces were in order.

During his tenure, Wickramasinghe had overseen a youth-driven overhaul with several senior players eschewed in favour of a core of younger players. Results of the move were mixed, with Sri Lanka unexpectedly lifting the 2022 T20 Asia Cup, to go alongside home series wins against Australia, South Africa and India. But this was juxtaposed by abject showings in the 2021 and 2022 T20 World Cups, as well as the 2023 ODI World Cup.

Their first assignment will be picking the squad for Sri Lanka’s home series against Zimbabwe in January, which will be followed by a series against Afghanistan. In the medium term they will be keeping a keen eye on the T20 World Cup in June.

The move comes in the wake of Sri Lanka’s underwhelming 2023 World Cup campaign, which had them win only two out of nine games and subsequently miss out on qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy.

The new committee, which will be in place for a two-year term, is among the youngest ever appointed to such a post at SLC. While de Saram at 50 is the oldest of the lot, Paranavitana and Dilruwan are both 41, with Tharanga and Mendis younger still at 38.

Tharanga, Dilruwan and de Saram also turned out to play first-class cricket as recently as this year. Paranavitana meanwhile last played domestically in 2020, having retired from international cricket that same year, while Mendis has followed up his 2019 retirement by frequenting the legends circuit.

As such, much of the discourse surrounding Sri Lanka’s recent form has been striking the right balance between youth and experience, and so this will likely be among the foremost areas set to be addressed by the new committee in picking their first squad.

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