Mahela on Sri Lanka’s long road to greatness again -by Rex Clementine

Mahela on Sri Lanka’s long road to greatness again –by Rex Clementine



After a painful rebuilding process that dragged on for years, the Sri Lankan cricket team is showing signs of turning things around. Their brilliant show in the Asia Cup in UAE was proof that the team has turned things around. The World Cup should have been the next big step forward but injuries to six players has made Sri Lanka less effective. Former captain Mahela Jayawardene is with the team as Consultant Coach and he is confident that the process that’s in place will bring the team the desired results.

“We have tried to address a few issues like fitness and fielding. You saw in Asia Cup how well we fielded. We have to maintain that. It was a program that we started and we need to persevere with that. We have some good talents and we need to make this side competitive again. Within one year, this team has improved in quality and competitiveness. The way they think about the game has changed. They have taken smart decisions.  That’s what we need to keep working on,” Jayawardene told Sunday Island in an interview.

Sri Lanka were beaten by Australia earlier this week. But it was a close game than what Marcus Stoinis eventually made it to look having smashed a 15 ball half-century. “If you take the Aussie game, it was a different pitch. It was a new stadium. We had plans accordingly. Batters did a decent job but the middle order didn’t get us enough runs. Probably we were 15 or 20 runs short. A couple of mistakes on our part. Then losing Binura in the first over was massive. On that wicket not having your fast bowler was a huge blow. Australia knew that the wicket was not offering much help for our spinners and they went after them,” he explained.

“We did a few good things in that game but more importantly, we have to rectify those mistakes and move forward. You have to face games like that in a World Cup. This Sydney wicket is totally different from what we got in Perth. So we need to plan accordingly and if we do things right, we can make it to the semis.”

Lahiru Kumara was the cynosure of all eyes in Perth having bowled a hostile spell. Mahela was impressed that coming back from injury, Kumara didn’t take much time to make his presence felt. “Lahiru has done that before. He was injured and he was almost out for nine months. He has not had match experience, but since the first game in this campaign he has been on the money. He has pace and he has control. That’s important. He troubled quite a few Aussies not just Maxi.”

After the Perth games Sri Lanka were ruing injuries to Dushmantha Chameera and Dilshan Madushanka.  With those two guys in, a total of 157 could have been defended. “More than Dilshan not having Chameera was a blow.  Playing in Australia if we had someone like him that would have been superb. Very unfortunate. But we have players who have a lot of skill over here. They may lack experience but they can improve and could become an asset.”

But what’s been the reason for so many injuries. “We can’t point out one reason. Geelong was the venue we played, so that could have been one reason as it is a football ground and there was a lot of rain and the surface had become soft. We had played quite a few games at a stretch and that could be another reason. No point of chatting about it now but once we go back home, we need to get down as a group and discuss how we can avoid such situations in the future. We had a few chats. But we need to go back home and address these issues scientifically.”

Sri Lanka play two games in Sydney and Mahela felt that the spinners need to get their plans right with one boundary being short. “The wicket is good in Sydney. If we can adjust quickly that will be an important thing, both batters and bowlers. The bowlers in particular because one side of the boundary is short and we need to get our plans right. We have a chance. The path for our World Cup semi-final dreams are still in our hands. “

“We saw the past games in Sydney and analyzed how teams bowled and all that. We need to think out of the box. Our bowlers are different to theirs. Every game is important and we have some pressure and we need to control that pressure.”

While the top order has done their job, leading into Saturday’s game against New Zealand, the middle order is yet to fire and Mahela hoped that they come into the party soon. “It’s important that our middle order batters get runs. These things happen in a World Cup. Not all our batters could be not amongst runs. When you are at the business end of a World Cup only you need to raise your performances. Players like Dasun and Bhanuka are very important for the side. They were amongst runs in the warm-up games. We haven’t got big contributions from them yes but I am sure at crunch games they will deliver.

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