Test record: 565 runs at average of 31.38
Record at No. 3: 244 runs at 30.50
The incumbent. The short-arm jabbing, strong forearm-heaving, barnstorming, non-doping, mass aneurism giver. In Perera’s defence, in 2016 he has gone through an ordeal few sportsmen will ever have to experience and is doing a fine job of moving on. However, he does not always seem to trust his defence, which is odd, since there is nothing outrageously wrong with it.
Perera has also made the mistake of playing two of the worst shots of his career in the single Test. This has been particularly irksome on account of his being a wildly unorthodox Test match No. 3. His average there is boosted by a century against Zimbabwe, which, in addition, does not convince many that he deserves more time in the job.
If ever he succeeds in the position, however, he is capable of ravishing attacks early in the game, and wresting momentum for Sri Lanka before the more stable middle-order players arrive.
Test record: 1324 runs at 33.10
Record at No. 3: 94 runs at 47.00.
Few players are as divisive in Sri Lanka cricket fandom as Tharanga. For the acolytes, he is the laidback, whippet-thin messiah with a back cut that elicits squeals and a cover drive so glorious you will wet yourself. Tharanga detractors, meanwhile, will moan loud and long that instead of a normal cricket bat, Tharanga uses a metre-long, 1.5kg outside edge.
He has, however, largely been ineffective on major tours. In Bangladesh and Zimbabwe Tharanga has a monstrous record, but he averages less than 25 in England, New Zealand, India and Sri Lanka.
There is a good argument that many of those innings were played so long ago, they are no longer indicative of Tharanga’s value to the team. The sample sizes are also mostly small. To add to this there is the matter of Tharanga’s 13 ODI hundreds, which if you ever meet a Tharanga fan, trust me, you will never hear the end of.
Dhananjaya de Silva
Test record: 615 runs at 55.90
Never batted at No. 3
So comfortable has de Silva looked at the top level since his debut, that ideally, Sri Lanka would have him batting in positions one through seven. As this is not possible the question Sri Lanka must answer is whether to leave de Silva low in the order, where he is scoring screeds of runs, or to push him up to where the team needs him before he has even played his 10th Test.
De Silva is, by trade, an opening batsman for his first-class team – Tamil Union. While this suggests he is capable of facing the new ball, and new-ball bowlers, Sri Lanka’s Premier League Tournament is where seam bowling goes to die. The fourteen top wicket-takers last season, for example, were all spinners. (There have been attempts to re-lay some pitches, but instead of improving their quality, groundstaff just end up unearthing skeletons of old quicks).
De Silva, does, however, appear to have a good technique against pace, as evidenced in his handling of Mitchell Starc, even if that was on dusty Sri Lankan tracks.
The major potential drawback of sending him up the order, though, is that you risk the development of a player that is coming along beautifully as a lower middle-order bat. He is also sometimes called upon to bowl, so management will be wary of loading him with too much responsibility.
Test record: 772 runs at 33.56
Record at No. 3: 216 runs at 24
Mendis actually began his career at first-drop, he was pushed down to No. 4 almost by accident against Australia at Pallekele, and played so beautifully there, no one has wanted to move him. Like with Dhananjaya, it’s the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” argument that contends Mendis should be allowed to continue at four, where his average is 45.22.
He does appear to have the tools and temperament to be a good No. 3 however, even if there has been a tendency to nick off while driving in recent months.
First-class record: 5964 runs at 50.11
The only player in the list who hasn’t played Tests, Silva has been one of the most consistent first-class performers over the past few years. Coaches rate his technique highly, and as importantly, suggest he has the temperament to see out tough situations.
He has been in form in recent months but, also, has suggested he can bat on seaming pitches. He was the top scorer in Sri Lanka A’s unofficial Test series against Pakistan A in England in 2016, with 162 runs at 40.50.
Silva was in the Sri Lanka squad for the Australia series, but has not been picked since. If the No. 3 spot continues to be a problem over the next two Tests, they may consider him for the Bangladesh series in March.
Test record: 144 runs at 20.57
Never batted at No. 3
An aggressive wicketkeeper-batsman, Dickwella hasn’t played Tests since December 2014, but has recently been scoring heavily in the opening position for Nondescripts Cricket Club. Was picked in the Zimbabwe Test squad in October, but probably sits behind Silva in the batting queue.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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