By Dinouk Colombage
Former Sri Lanka captain Duleep Mendis has been appointed the new chairman of selectors following the resignation of the previous selection committee headed by Aravinda de Silva. The rest of the panel who resigned were Ranjith Fernando, Amal Silva and Shabbir Asgerally.
Mendis is synonymous with Sri Lanka Cricket having played in the 1975 and 1979 World Cups in Sri Lanka’s pre-test era and then representing the country in the inaugural test under Bandula Warnapura. Mendis had the distinction of leading the side to its first test victory in 1983 over India.
After retirement Mendis continued to serve Sri Lanka Cricket in almost every capacity including Chairman of Selectors, Team Manager and CEO of SLC. He was the Manager of the team that won the World Cup in 1996.
Alongside Mendis on the panel are Brendon Kuruppu, Ranjit Madurasinghe, Chaminda Mendis and Don Arunasiri – all of whom have served previously in the same capacity.
Mendis was appointed by Sports Minister, Mahindananda Aluthgama at Olympic House on Monday. This will not be Mendis’ first run at the role having been a selector in 1996 and chairman of selectors in 1999. Mendis said that their main focus at this point will be to prepare the team for 2015. He noted that the rebuilding will be focused around the inclusion of youngsters. “As in the past – some strategies may work while others may not – we have to accept that” he said.
When questioned by the media on the roles of captain and vice-captain, Mendis explained that the decision would be made in the coming weeks. He refused to speculate saying that the committee would have to sit down and look at who would be the best option to lead the team through their rebuilding phase.
He however noted that several members of the team are ageing although not mentioning any names. Skipper Kumar Sangakkara himself had noted that he would be 37 by the time of the next World Cup and that he was not sure of playing till then. Mahela Jayawardena would also be 37 in 2015 and Thilan Samaraweera and Tillekeratne Dilshan would be a year older at 38.
Mendis assured the public that despite the retirement of Muralitharan the country had an abundance of talent. “There is talent in the country but they must be picked at the right time and groomed for the future.” He said.
Mendis said that Sangakkara’s resignation came as a surprise and he was personally disappointed to hear the news but acknowledged that the selectors had to now move on and deal with the situation.
Aluthgama also added that prior to the World Cup he did not visit Sri Lanka Cricket enough. However, he will now take a more active approach to the game as they look to continue the development of the sport.