Wanindu Hasaranga told us about Test return two weeks ago, says SLC

Wanindu Hasaranga’s surprise return from retirement to the Sri Lankan Test side was not a ploy to avoid the legspinner missing T20 World Cup games later this year, according to Sri Lanka Cricket.

Hasaranga was suspended from international cricket after stacking up demerit points for showing dissent against an umpiring decision in Sri Lanka’s defeat to Bangladesh on March 18. But immediately after the game and before the sanction was handed out by the ICC, Hasaranga came out of Test retirement to be named in Sri Lanka’s Test squad to face Bangladesh. The ICC ruling took his demerit points up to eight, which meant he would have to miss two Tests, four ODIs or four T20Is, depending on which came first.

Had Hasaranga not been named in the Test squad, the ban would have seen him miss the start of Sri Lanka’s T20 World Cup campaign in June. But as it turned out, his return to the Test fold – despite not having played a first-class match in over a year – ensured that his ban would be served during Sri Lanka’s next two Tests instead.

According to SLC, Hasaranga had informed them in an email on March 16 of his desire to be considered for Test match selection going forward, citing his improved fitness levels.

Ajantha Mendis, a member of Sri Lanka’s selection committee, meanwhile stated that Hasaranga had in fact intimated his desire to play Test cricket even earlier.

“It was about two weeks ago that he told us he was open to playing Tests again,” Mendis told ESPNcricinfo. “We know how it looks, but this decision was taken well before the final ODI.”

The ICC is believed to have been in touch with SLC about the matter, to confirm Hasaranga’s Test return more than anything else. Though there is awareness of the circumstances and possible intentions of Hasaranga’s Test return, there is also an acknowledgement that no rules have been broken and so little can be done about it.

Had Hasaranga actually played the Tests, it would have impacted his early availability with Sunrisers Hyderabad at IPL 2024. ESPNcricinfo has learned, however, that Sunrisers were unaware of Hasaranga’s plan to play those Tests.

This is not the first time Sri Lanka has benefitted from a technical loophole. In the 2012 T20 World Cup, Kumar Sangakkara stood in as captain for one game to ensure that had the side been reprimanded for a slow over rate, it would be him instead of regular captain Mahela Jayawardene copping any sanction. Jayawardene had already been sanctioned for the same earlier in the tournament and would therefore have received a ban if he were to receive another sanction.

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