SL probable final squad for SA: Tsunami victim Pulina Tharanga reaches national ranks
By Revatha S. Silva
One of the greatest success stories of Sri Lanka’s sports and society in recent times, Pulina Tharanga, the 28-year-old leg-spin bowler, has been named in the possible final 22-member Sri Lanka squad for the forthcoming South Africa white-ball series.
Last week, it was reported that the national cricket selectors had announced an initial 30-player squad for the Protea series, scheduled to start on 2 September.
Tharanga fared reasonably well for the victorious Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) Greys team in the recently concluded SLC Invitational T20 League in Pallekele, during which the selectors picked the initial 30-man squad for the Protea series. Tharanga took seven wickets in six matches in that League at an average of 19.44.
From Tsunami victim to national ranks
Tharanga has so far played in over 90 white-ball matches at the domestic level taking over 70 wickets with his leg-break bowling at 19.05. He has scored over 1,200 runs, at an average of over 21 runs per a match.
Tharanga, who lost both his parents in the tragic 2004 Asian Tsunami, had studied at Sri Devananda College, Ambalangoda before playing for many first-class clubs including Singha Sports Club, Tamil Union, and Chilaw Marians.
Troubled by the Tsunami which killed over 30,000 people in most of the coastal areas in Sri Lanka including his down-south home town, Tharanga had been under the care of the Foundation of Goodness (FoG) at Seenigama off Hikkaduwa down south, since he was 11 years old.
“Tharanga was on an MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) scholarship programme since the time he came under our (FoG) care. By 2012, he reached a standard where he could represent Sri Lanka in the Under-19 World Cup,” Kushil Gunasekera, Founder and Chief Trustee of the Foundation of Goodness, told the Morning Sports on Sunday (22) when the player had been included in the initial 30-member squad.
The Board of Trustees of the FoG includes former Sri Lanka champion cricketers such as Muttiah Muralitharan, Russel Arnold, Mahela Jayawardene, and Kumar Sangakkara.
Outgoing players in squad
Only Tharanga and the 21-year-old off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana have been retained from the uncapped players in the initial 30-member squad.
The other four uncapped players in the initial squad — Dilshan Madushanka, Ishan Jayaratne, Shiran Fernando, and Sahan Arachchige — have not been picked for the 22-player final squad for South Africa.
Also going out from the 30-player squad are Ashen Bandara, Lakshan Sandakan, Asitha Fernando, and Dhananjaya Lakshan, all current national players.
The three-member national cricket selection committee who is currently responsible for senior-level selections comprise Pramodya Wickramasinghe as the Chairman, Romesh Kaluwitharana, and Hemantha Wickramaratne.
The present national selectors who are looking after junior selections are Ranjith Madurasinghe (Chairman), Varuna Waragoda, and Uvais Karnain. Meanwhile the women’s national selection is done by Hemantha Devapriya and Thilaka Gunaratne.
Only Chandimal from senior lot
Former Sri Lanka Captains Dinesh Chandimal and Suranga Lakmal last played for Sri Lanka during the March and April West Indies tour. Then they were dropped for the following Bangladesh, England, and India white-ball series when the selectors opted to apply a ‘youth policy’ aiming the 2023 50-over World Cup.
The same time, former ODI Captain Dimuth Karunaratne too was omitted from the national white-ball side along with the other seniors.
But, out of them, Chandimal has been recalled now for the South Africa series.
Another former Captain, Angel Mathews, is currently unavailable for selection for personal reasons.
Protea series, IPL, and World Cup
Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasranga and Dushmantha Chameera, meanwhile, are set to play for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team in the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) second stage.
That stage is set to start in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 19 September, five days after Sri Lanka are to complete the South Africa white-ball series in Colombo, on 14 September.
Then, just two days after the IPL is over on 15 October, the T20 World Cup is set to begin in UAE and Oman on 17 October.
The ODI leg of the South Africa series is to be held on 2, 4, and 7 September before the T20I series, which is to be held on 10, 12, and 14 September.
All matches are to be held at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo behind closed doors.