Shocked to see Jeevan Mendis in place of Tharanga in World Cup squad: Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan
Muttiah Muralitharan

Dubai, January 9 (IANS)

Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan has said he was surprised to see young all-rounder Jeevan Mendis getting picked ahead of seasoned batsman Upul Tharanga in the country's 15-member World Cup squad.

The off-spin maestro, a member of the World Cup winning squad in 1996, also expressed concern about the balance of the squad to be led by ace all-rounder Angelo Mathews.

"The Sri Lanka squad for the World Cup contained two big surprises for me: the absence of opener Upul Tharanga and the inclusion of Jeevan Mendis as a spin-bowling all-rounder," Muralitharan wrote in a column published at the International Cricket Council (ICC) website on Thursday.

"Tharanga's omission shocked me. True, he had not been picked against England or New Zealand, but he has a decent One-Day International record, averaging just under 34, and he has the precious gift of experience, with 176 matches under his belt."

“Overall it is a solid line-up”

But the right-arm former spinner said apart from these two decisions, the squad picked was formidable, particularly the batting depth.

"I do worry about the balance of the squad thanks to Jeevan Mendis' inclusion ahead of Tharanga but overall it is a solid line-up, full of experience, especially in the batting, and if everyone stays fit and finds form then there is no reason why Sri Lanka cannot at least match their achievements of the last two editions," he said.

The 42-year-old, who represented his country in five World Cups - 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 - taking 67 wickets, felt left-handed opener Tharanga's experience would have been helpful in Australian conditions.

"He was a key member of our squads in both 2007 and 2011 when we reached the final on both occasions, and in that latter tournament he made 395 runs, including centuries against Zimbabwe and England, at an excellent strike-rate of almost 84 runs per hundred balls," he said.

"Tharanga was involved with the one-day side as recently as the hastily arranged tour of India in November and my strong preference would have been to have him to open alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan and, rather than leaving out Dimuth Karunaratne, the man now earmarked for that role, I would have sacrificed Jeevan Mendis."

“Malinga is a match-winner”

Muralitharan, world's highest wicket-taker with 1334 scalps (800 in Tests and 534 in ODIs), also defended the Sri Lankan selectors' decision to include injury-plagued pacer Lasith Malinga.

"I do agree with chairman of selectors Sanath Jayasuriya about the inclusion of Lasith Malinga, that his selection is a risk worth taking, even though the fast bowler is still on the comeback trail following surgery to his left ankle last year," Muralidaran said.

"Malinga is a match-winner, someone who will enjoy conditions in Australia and New Zealand and as, like Mahela (Jayawardene) and Kumar (Sangakkara), he is likely to be playing his last World Cup," he added.

"He may well find within himself the extra motivation to go out with a bang, especially as he was part of the squad that fell at the final hurdles in both 2007 and 2011."

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