Madushka, 23, has seemingly forced his way into the selectors’ minds following a string of impressive performances against the England Lions earlier this year. Turning out for Sri Lanka A, he produced innings of 241 and 100, while he also hit 150 against the same opposition while representing a Board President’s XI.
His inclusion means Pathum Nissanka finds himself the odd man out. Nissanka had made an impressive start to his Test career, scoring 537 runs across 15 innings, and was a mainstay in the Lankan top order until mid 2022. Thereafter, a sub-par showing against Australia at home, where he scored just 43 runs in three innings – combined with a bout of Covid-19 – saw him omitted for Sri Lanka’s next two Tests against Pakistan. He has since made his mark in the white-ball format, but Madushka’s recent form has proved tough to ignore.
Alongside Nissanka, also out are Maheesh Theekshana, Lakshitha Manasinghe, Jeffrey Vandersay, Dunith Wellalage and Dilshan Madushanka. Aside from Nissanka and seamer Madushanka, the rest are all spin bowlers with only Wellalage offering something with the bat. With New Zealand conditions expected to favour seam and bounce, Sri Lanka have understandably sought to forego spin in favour of pace.
Rathnayake’s inclusion is a little more straightforward. The 26-year old had been the pick of the seam bowlers against England Lions, and while he’s unlikely to be called into the playing XI, he will provide adequate backup to Sri Lanka’s five other seam-bowling options – Kasun Rajitha, Asitha Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, and the returning pair of Kumara and Karunaratne, who is also a capable lower-order batter.
On the batting front, Sri Lanka boast a relatively settled unit, led by the captain Dimuth Karunaratne. Oshada Fernando is capable of batting anywhere at the top of the order, though it is his position that might be under threat by Madushka. Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal will offer middle-order experience in spades, while In Kusal Mendis, Sri Lanka have a man in red-hot form – albeit in white-ball cricket. Dhananjaya, Kamindu and Niroshan Dickwella round off the list.
Sri Lanka recently completed a training session in Radella – some 4000 feet above sea level – to simulate conditions that are close to New Zealand. The first Test is in Christchurch, starting March 9.