Sri Lanka are the defending champions for both Asia Cup and the ICC World T20 2016 © Getty Images
Sri Lanka are the defending champions for both Asia Cup and the ICC World T20 2016 © Getty Images

A troubled Sri Lankan side that recently suffered a 1-2 thrashing in India in a three-match series welcomed their experienced campaigners in Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath for the upcoming challenges ahead as they announced their squad on Thursday. The return of the seniors marks an important step in Sri Lanka’s preparations for ICC World T20 2016 as well as Asia Cup 2016, which will be held in the T20 format for the very first time. Sri Lanka are the defending champions of both the tournaments, and there is far too much at stake for them. ALSO READ: ICC World T20 2016: Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews included in Sri Lanka squad

When the Sri Lankans defeated India in the final of the ICC World T20 2014 in Bangladesh, they were driven by a huge inspiration. Sri Lanka were presented the challenge of giving a perfect farewell to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, and they did it in style by defeating India.  However, when Sri Lanka will begin their campaigns in both the tournaments, their only aim will not be defending the two trophies successfully.

The match-fixing controversy that rocked Sri Lankan cricket recently was a grave matter. Kusal Perera and Herath confessed being approached by bookies, and Sri Lanka went on till the extent of removing some of their officials from National Cricket Academy. While further investigations and resulting actions are anticipated, the focus now is completely on Mathews and his men to bring back smiles to the island nation. ALSO READ:  Dinesh Chandimal: Sri Lanka paid price for not playing well in Powerplays against India

With Sangakkara and Jayawardene retired and Tillakaratne Dilshan stumbling in the final stages of his career, the focus entirely shifts to the young batsmen, with many of them yet to find their feet as far as T20 cricket is concerned. Shehan Jayasuriya and Dasun Shanaka have had very little exposure to T20 international cricket. Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka’s captain for the India tour, has an ordinary record in the shortest format of the game as well. It all comes down to senior men Dilshan and Mathews to show the way, with the rest providing adequate support.

The Sri Lankans will definitely miss the services of Kusal, who has been suspended following doping charges. The void created by his suspension will test the Sri Lankan bench adequately. The timing could not have been worse for them.

It will not be wrong to assert that Sri Lanka’s bowling look far more settled than their batting. The returns of Herath, Kulasekara and Malinga provide them a huge lift from their dejecting shows in India. There is Sachithra Senanayake as well, with ample experience for KKR in IPL. Do not rule out Thisara Perera as well: with his ability to break partnerships and explode with bat down the order, Thisara may turn out to be the most crucial cog in the Sri Lankan unit.

Another surprise that the Sri Lankan selectors sprang was the omission of Kasun Rajitha, who played a key role in Sri Lanka’s win in the opening T20I at Pune. The Lankans have also dropped senior bowler Dilhara Fernando, after giving him only one match on the Indian tour.

Sri Lanka squad for Asia Cup 2016 and ICC World T20 2016: Lasith Malinga (c), Angelo Mathews (vc), Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Niroshan Dickwella, Shehan Jayasuriya, Milinda Siriwardana, Dasun Shanaka, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dushmantha Chameera, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Jeffrey Vandersay.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)