Malinga steps down as Sri Lanka captain for World T20

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s World Twenty20 title defence suffered a jolt on the day the tournament gets underway with Lasith Malinga’s slow recovery from a knee injury forcing the fast bowler to hand over captaincy to Angelo Mathews.

Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga bowls during the Cricket World Cup quarter-final match against South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files

Malinga remains available for Super 10 stage matches but the paceman with blond-tinted hair and an unorthodox action may not be the same force which has been key to Sri Lanka’s progress to three World Twenty20 finals over the last four editions.

The team, however, can take heart from the fact that a similarly forced change in captaincy marked their triumphant 2014 campaign when out-of-form skipper Dinesh Chandimal sat out the final few matches and Malinga stepped in to lead them to glory.

“He is stepping down only from captaincy,” Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) secretary Mohan de Silva told Reuters on Monday.

“He has offered himself for selection only after (March) 15 because he is undergoing some treatment here in Sri Lanka,” de Silva added.

Test and one-day captain Mathews was named Malinga’s deputy in the original Sri Lankan squad for the tournament in India.

Malinga, 32, is recovering slowly from a knee injury and is not certain to play all the side’s matches in India.

The defending champions also added Lahiru Thirimanne and Suranga Lakmal, replacing Jeffrey Vandersay and Niroshan Dickwella from the original squad.

“We still believe we have a very good chance of winning the World Cup with this combination,” SLC chairman Thilanga Sumathipala told a news conference.

Sri Lanka begin their bid for a second World Twenty20 title on March 17 with a Super 10 stage match against a yet-to-be-identified qualifier in Kolkata.

After the team’s poor showing in the recent Asia Cup, where they lost all but one of their four matches, SLC also replaced the entire selection committee with a new panel headed by former captain Aravinda de Silva.

Batting great Kumar Sangakkara and former stumper-opener Romesh Kaluwitharana are also part of the new five-member selection panel.

Sri Lanka squad: Angelo Mathews (captain), Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Shehan Jayasuriya, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardana, Suranga Lakmal

Additional reporting by Shihar Aneez; Writing by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O’Brien