Dilshan defends Thilan’s exclusion


Rex Clementine reporting from Paarl

Ever since Thilan Samaraweera was overlooked for the ODI leg of Sri Lanka’s tour of South Africa, captain Tillakaratne Dilshan has been bombarded with questions relating to the omission of team’s best batsman on tour.

Samaraweera scored back to back Test hundreds to join an elite group of cricketers to have had success in South Africa and it has been felt that Samaraweera’s uncompromising style of batting would have served the team better in ODIs.

After Sri Lanka’s suffered their heaviest defeat in ODI cricket in Paarl, the question of Samaraweera resurfaced again and Dilshan explained why Samaraweera was not picked for the ODIs.

"Well, even if Thilan had been here, I can’t think of a place where he can bat. We’re grooming Dinesh Chandimal at number four while Mahela Jayawardene bats at number five followed by Angelo Mathews and I don’t think Thilan can bat at number seven,’ Dilshan told journalists yesterday.

Sri Lanka’s middle order is fairly established and Dilshan was of the opinion that even if Samaraweera had been picked in the squad, he would have struggled to get into the playing 11.

"We have played ODI cricket without Thilan. He was part of the side only for the World Cup. He didn’t play in all the matches, but only a few. The batting unit we have at the moment has played together for the last three or four years and I don’t think we lack any experience. The main thing here is that we have batted badly."

Factors such as age, strike rate, agility on the field have stood in the way of Samaraweera to earn a permanent place in the ODI side although he has been a regular member of the Test side for the past ten years. But with most batsmen struggling in the Test series, it has been felt that the selectors should have borrowed a leaf from their predecessors who retained Hashan Tillakaratne, a similar player to Samaraweera, after he became the first Sri Lankan to score a Test hundred in South Africa in 2002.

"We took a decision to go with the young players looking at the future. The Senior player, selectors and the management decided to go with Lahiru Thirimanne and we need to stick to that plan," Dilshan further said.

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