Former Sri Lanka team manager Charith Senanayake has lauded the young team's successful tour of Pakistan following a Twenty20 series whitewash, but insisted the senior players who opted out of the tour should now return to the fold.
A Sri Lanka team missing 10 regular first-team players defeated top-ranked Pakistan 3-0, with each result delivered in emphatic fashion. After winning the first game by 64 runs, the visitors clinched the series with a 35-run victory, before completing the sweep by 13 runs on Wednesday.
However, despite the heroics of what was essentially a second string team, former Test opener Senanayake has said they will make way for the returning senior players, who had chosen not to travel to Pakistan over security concerns.
This was the first extensive tour by any team to Pakistan after 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team bus by terrorists in 2009 in Lahore. Six members of the team were wounded, and six Pakistani police officers and two civilians were killed in the attack.
“Theoretically yes, this team could be retained following their success but technically and in reality it’s not a good idea,” Senanayake said.
“The seniors were given a choice due to what the Sri Lanka team had to undergo during the 2009 visit to Pakistan. You cannot question one's commitment or loyalty when it is down to security.”
While taking nothing away from the efforts of the players who did tour, Senanayake believes that had the first team been in Pakistan, the games would have been even more one-sided.
“Had the seniors travelled, the result could have been even better though we cannot ask for more from the replacements,” Senanayake said. “Unfortunately, some of them from the Pakistan tour may have to sit out once the regulars return.
“I'm not undermining the team or the great result, but the fact is Pakistan did not look like or justified their rankings. They were well below par.”
While firm in his stance regarding the returning regulars, Senanayake is convinced that all of the players from the Pakistan tour have the ability to push for regular places in the future.
“I hope the management will take some bold decisions not to include anyone in the squad considering seniority, or for sentimental reasons if they are not deserving or fit to compete at International level," he said.
“We were never short of talent. Management issues led to poor on-field performances. Most of these players are hungry for success and some have gone through a lot of hardships. Hope they will be given their due place and recognition.
“It is a tough competitive world out there where there is no room for the weak and injured.”
Sri Lanka are next in action at the end of the month with a tour of Australia for a three-match T20 series.