Opinion: Reshaped Sri Lanka prepare for future

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Sport rarely obeys the script, but for Sri Lanka, their enduring final hurdle hoodoo was conquered in the most fitting of circumstances at the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.

Sport rarely obeys the script, but for Sri Lanka, their enduring final hurdle hoodoo was conquered in the most fitting of circumstances at the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.

Pronounced by many as 'destiny', the perennial heartbreak of blundering the last fence was banished as Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara – both featuring in their Twenty20 swansong – ousted the demons of bygone anguish – <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>and tipped the stakes among popular cricket betting websites</b></a>.

What's transpired in the four weeks since, however, wasn't part of the long-term stratagem. The elation of Mirpur was shortly superseded by the familiar feeling of uncertainty.

Head coach Paul Farbrace, the engineer behind the recent successes, absconded to become Peter Moores' assistant in England – while prosperity on the field failed to mask the upheaval off it; the past six months have been undermined by the deep-rooted contractual dispute between players and the board.

The mastery of Mirpur has acted as a medium, though. For now, a line has been drawn under the pay issues, with an agreement reached, and the swift appointment of former batsman Marvan Atapattu as interim coach has minimised the disruption of Farbrace's abrupt departure, superficially at least.

Preparations have been far from ideal but as Sri Lanka arrive in Ireland, for the first time since 1979, the focus remains firmly on building towards next year's World Cup. Inevitably, there is more heed on the players that aren't in Dublin than the ones that are – but this is an ideal opportunity for the groundwork for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand to begin. This is, by no means, a warm-up series for the islanders ahead of their forthcoming showdown with England.

With several of their luminaries absent from the 15-man panel, the two games will provide the selectors and fans with a glimpse into the future as the shadows lengthen on the peerless careers of their fabled stalwarts.

Neither Sangakkara or Jayawardene have travelled – with the former instead preparing with a short stint at Durham – while Lasith Malinga, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Rangana Herath have all been afforded a rest after recent exploits. The onus is now on their deputies to stand-up and showcase their proficiency at the highest level.

Irrespective of the names missing from the scorecard, six members of the side that played in the World Twenty20 final arrive determined to build on that triumph and cement their position in the side. Dinesh Chandimal, who was recently axed as T20I skipper, has more reason than most to prove his worth to the selectors after a barren run of form which saw him dropped for the latter stages of the World T20.

He's not the only one with no shortage of incentive. For Upul Tharanga – a veteran of 171 ODIs – this tour represents a last-chance saloon after being handed a recall following a period in the international wilderness. Lahiru Thirimanne <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/one-day-internationals/Ireland-v-Sri-Lanka-6834349.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>, who Paddy Power have backed at 9/2 to be the top run-scorer,</b></a> is at the other end of the spectrum. He will look to justify the decision to appoint him as vice-captain across all formats at just 24 years old, while all eyes will be on so-called mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis.

Those who have made the trip to the Irish capital will be all too aware that there are several unoccupied berths in the side and this is an ideal opportunity to put their case for inclusion forward. Regardless of the names on the back of the shirts, this is a Sri Lankan side brimming with experience and oozing with quality.

<b>Ryan Bailey</b>

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