GALLE, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Sri Lanka face a selection dilemma over their wicketkeeper as they gear-up for a tough three-test series against Pakistan starting in Galle on Saturday.
Pakistan, buoyed by their recent win in the ICC World Twenty20 and strengthened by the return of rebel stars, pose a stern test to Kumar Sangakkara in his first test series as captain.
With regular wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene out with a fractured finger, Sangakarra now faces the choice of captaining the side, batting at number three and also keeping wicket, an exhausting prospect in Sri Lanka’s hot and humid climate.
There is the option of playing uncapped Kaushal Silva, a batsman with a fine first-class record, but Sangakkara is tempted to play an all rounder to give him more bowling options.
”A specialist wicketkeeper is important but then again we have two other wicketkeepers in the squad, myself and Tillakaratne Dilshan,“ said Sangakkara this week. ”No other team has that luxury.
”We still have to wait and see how we can manage and how best to balance the team to give us the best advantage to go and win the test match.
“It could be a case of Kaushal making a debut or myself or Dilshan sharing the gloves.”
If Sri Lanka do opt for a non-specialist wicketkeeper then all rounder Angelo Mathews, a 22-year-old who broke into the one-day and Twenty 20 team in the past year, will make his test debut.
Thilan Samaraweera will play in the middle order, his 50th test appearance, just four months after being shot in the thigh in a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
Samaraweera had been in fine form in that aborted two-match series in March, hitting back-to-back double hundreds and he has worked hard to battle his way back to full fitness.
Pakistan have been strengthened by the return of middle order batsman Mohammad Yousuf, one of the world’s most consistent players until being banned by his own cricket board for playing in an unsanctioned Indian Cricket League.
All rounder Abdul Razzaq, also recalled after snapping his ties with the ICL, could return although Pakistan, like Sri Lanka who have a world-class spin attack in Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, are likely to play two slow bowlers in Danish Kaneria and Saeed Ajmal.
Skipper Younis Khan said there was added pressure on his team after their victory in the World Twenty20.
“In Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka have a wise captain and their team is balanced with quality players, so we will have to be at our best to get positive results,” he said.
“It will be double pressure on us because our people want wins in every match and after the Twenty20 success they want more success and that can put pressure on us, but we are ready for it.”
Younis Khan (capt), Salman Butt, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal (wk), Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Aamer, Danish Kaneria, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rauf, Fawad Alam, Faisal Iqbal.
Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Malinda Warnapura, Tharanga Paranavitana, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Angelo Mathews, Chamara Kapugedera, Muthiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Thushara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dhammika Prasad, Kaushal Silva (wk), Suranga Lakmal