The most surprising exclusion in Sri Lanka's Test squad for the tour of Zimbabwe came in the form of Kusal Perera. The wicketkeeper-batsman had led Sri Lanka's terrific chase against South Africa in the Durban Test only last year, when Sri Lanka registered a famous victory and became the first side from Asia to seal a series win in South Africa.
Perera, whose career-best unbeaten 153 had helped Sri Lanka chase down a steep target of 304 in the come-from-behind win against South Africa in Durban, wasn't in the best of forms during New Zealand's tour of Sri Lanka. He managed a highest of 23 while he was dismissed without scoring in the two innings in Colombo, while he did not play the Pakistan Tests.
Sri Lanka's chief selector Ashantha de Mel justified the non-selection of the 29-year-old by mentioning that the captain and the coach had insisted on Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews being included in the squad for the two Tests against Zimbabwe, which meant that there was no place for Perera.
"Kusal is a good player, we know that. However if Kusal is going to play in this series, he will not do the wicket-keeping. Niroshan Dickwella is going to be behind the stumps. In a situation like that, we will have to remove either Dinesh Chandimal or Angelo Mathews. However the captain and the coach wanted to play both of them, in order to stabilize the team," de Mel said.
De Mel explained that Mathews and Chandimal have been the front-line choices for Sri Lanka and that Perera only played the series in South Africa because the two were not available.
"Kusal played in South Africa because Mathews and Chandimal were not in the side. Now both of them are back, that's why Kusal will not play the Test series in Zimbabwe. It's advisable for him to stay here and get ready for the upcoming white-ball cricket," de Mel said.
The first Test of the Zimbabwe tour will be played from January 19 while the second Test gets underway from January 27, with both games being held at the Harare Sports Club.