Defending champions Sri Lanka yesterday said Lasith Malinga was stepping down as captain of their World Twenty20 side after the team’s disastrous Asia Cup showing, with Angelo Mathews to skipper the team in India.
The announcement came only hours after Sri Lankan Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekera sacked the panel of selectors and appointed a new line-up headed by former player Aravinda de Silva.
At a news conference in Colombo, Jayasekera said that injury-plagued Malinga was also being replaced, but the president of the Sri Lankan board insisted it was the veteran fast bowler’s own decision.
“Last night we finalized the new squad and informed the ICC [Internatonal Cricket Council]. We have appointed Mathews as captain and [Dinesh] Chandimal as vice-captain,” Jayasekera said.
“Malinga will be the 15th in the squad,” he said ahead of the team’s departure for India later yesterday.
Malinga presided over a dismal showing by Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, where they were beaten by the hosts, little-fancied Bangladesh and only just scraped past the United Arab Emirates.
While Sri Lanka won the previous World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in 2014, the team has been badly weakened by the retirements of star batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
They are eighth in the T20 rankings and few commentators have given them much hope of defending their title in the sixth edition of the format’s world championship, which began in India yesterday with Hong Kong playing Zimbabwe followed by Afghanistan against Scotland in a qualifying round for the main draw.
Malinga, who has been struggling with a knee injury, only played one match in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, where he hinted that he was considering retirement.
The 32-year-old has a long history of injury problems and gave up Test cricket in 2010 as he was unable to withstand the rigours of five-day matches.
Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala told reporters that he hoped Malinga would be able to bowl in India.
“He opted to offer to step down as captain. We have kept him in the squad so that he can play at least one match in the tournament,” said Sumathipala, who insisted Sri Lanka could cause an upset in India.
“We still believe we have a very good chance of winning the World Cup with this combination,” he said. “I think we still have a good chance of coming back as the champion T20 team.”
All-rounder Mathews is already the captain of the Sri Lanka Test side, who are also struggling to cope since the departure of Jayawardene and Sangakkara, who has been appointed as a selector.
“We have not been able to fill the void left by them,” Jayasekera said.
The upheaval in the captaincy and among the selectors is yet another headache for the team’s new coach Graham Ford, who started his second spell in charge last month.
Sri Lanka’s formidable home record took a hit last year with series defeats against India and Pakistan.
Sri Lanka then traveled to New Zealand, where they were outplayed in all forms of the game.
Sri Lanka are to begin their World Twenty20 on Wednesday next week, when they face one of the two qualifiers from the preliminary round taking place this week, which also includes Bangladesh, Ireland, the Netherlands and Oman.
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