Colombo: Sri Lanka's veteran stars Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal are critical to the young side's hopes at the 2019 World Cup despite poor form and recent injuries, said former captain and world cup winner Aravinda de Silva.
The islanders failed to make the final of the ongoing Twenty20 tri-series in Colombo, but their recent performances have raised hopes of a resurgence after a lacklustre 2017, in which they lost 40 of 57 international matches.
"I think Angelo is probably the most capable all-rounder of the side and also has a good cricketing brain along with Chandimal," said de Silva, who was a star batsman in the Sri Lankan side that won the World Cup in 1996.
He told AFP that captaincy will not make a difference.
"It doesn't matter (if) you are captain or a normal player as you put in the same kind of effort."
Mathews, 30, returned to lead Sri Lanka's limited-overs sides earlier this year after quitting as captain last July, but has played only one international match because of injury. Test skipper Chandimal has led the one-day and T20 teams in his absence.
An improved Sri Lanka won the recent ODI tri-series in Bangladesh and also beat the Tigers in the Test and T20 series.
The resurgence has been credited to new coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who moved back to his native Sri Lanka after coaching Bangladesh for nearly three years.
De Silva believes Hathurusingha's ease of communication with players gives him an advantage over a foreign coach.
"He is probably the best... plainly because of the fact that he can relate to the players far better and the players can also relate to him," de Silva said.
"There is no language or a culture barrier and... it helps because they can voice their opinion."
Fit and improving
Sri Lankan players were accused of being "too fat" by the country's sports minister last year as the defeats piled up, and were told to get fit or get out.
But de Silva, who resigned as head of the cricket committee of the island's board last year, believes the players look fit and improvements are visible.
"I think they are playing better cricket now. I hope with a little more exposure and experience they will start doing well as a young new team," said the 52-year-old veteran.
An attacking batsman during his illustrious career between 1984 and 2002, de Silva singled out wicketkeeper-batsman Kusal Perera as a future star.
"I see a lot of Sanath (Jayasuriya) in him and I think it is a crime to leave a guy like him out of the Test team," he said, referring to his former teammate and explosive opener whose whirlwind style revolutionised top-order batting in the 1990s.
Perera has smashed three fifties in four matches of the ongoing T20 tri-series. He has represented Sri Lanka in 73 ODIs and 34 T20s, but has played only 10 Tests since his debut in the format in 2015.
De Silva said that T20 cricket, instead of hampering the skills of upcoming players, has helped improve modern batters.
"Attacking cricket is always good and I think T20 has enhanced the repertoire of strokeplay," he said.
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India will travel to Sri Lanka for a limited-overs tour next month and the BCCI announced a 20-man squad for the tour, packed with youngsters, including six uncapped players.
The selectors picked a bunch of fresh faces for the Sri Lanka series on Thursday as the main team is in the UK for the World Test Championship final and five Tests against England.
The youngster, who rose to prominence after his successful stint with IPL team Chennai Super Kings, said he is looking to reconnect with Rahul Dravid, who would be head coach of the team. Dravid has, in the past, coached the Indian under-19 and A teams.