Sri Lanka touched down at the Harare International Airport yesterday afternoon and were received by Zimbabwe Cricket officials, among them head of human resources and corporate affairs Nesta Vaki, national teams and cricket affairs manager Christian Chiketa and public relations and media manager Darlington Majonga.
The 38-year-old Herath is standing in for injured all-rounder Angelo Mathews, who was ruled out of the Zimbabwe tour by a torn calf. Regular vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal also missed the trip because of a thumb injury.
Herath recently put up a superb show with the red ball as Sri Lanka whitewashed Australia 3-0 in a Test series in July/August in the subcontinent.
He took 28 wickets in the three Tests against the Aussies. Seventeen years after making his Test debut, Herath is set to become the oldest player to lead a team for the first time in the long version of the game at international level.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe squad has been trimmed from 20 to 16 for the two Tests.
Wicketkeeper Richmond Mutumbami, top order batsmen Prince Masvaure, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, off spinner John Nyumbu and left-arm pace bowler Brian Vitori have been dropped from the 20-man squad announced last week. The four were excluded following consultations between the convenor of selectors Tatenda Taibu, head coach Heath Streak, bowling coach Makhaya Ntini, batting consultant Lance Klusener and skipper Graeme Cremer.
Pace bowler Michael Chinouya, who had been left out of the initial squad as he was undergoing allergy treatment, has been included to bolster the pace bowling attack.
Streak said they would select the ODI training squad soon and if players dropped from the Test side are not in that team, they will be sent home.
On his team’s chances of getting a positive result against Sri Lanka, Streak feels their prospects are bright and predicted a 1-0 win for Zimbabwe or a share of the spoils at 1-1 in the two Tests.
Zimbabwe’s biggest strength, Streak believes, are the home conditions which work in their favour.
“With the kind of squad they are bringing, there is no reason why we can’t win a Test. We will win 1-0 or the series will end 1-1 considering that they just beat the Aussies; that would be good. We have the home conditions in our favour,” said Streak.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (captain), Christopher Mpofu, Sean Williams, Brian Chari, Craig Ervine, Peter Moor(wicketkeeper), Regis Chakabva(wicketkeeper), Tarisai Musakanda, Carl Mumba, Hamilton Masakadza, Malcolm Waller, Taurai Muzarabani, Sikandar Raza, Michael Chinouya, Tinotenda Mawoyo, Donald Tiripano.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wicketkeeper), Rangana Herath(captain), Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Madhushanka, Lahiru Kumara, Lahiru Gamage, Suranga Lakmal, Asela Gunaratne.