Jayawardene isn’t keen on taking up a permanent role in the Sri Lankan setup despite his status(Getty)
Sri Lanka are raring to go ahead of facing an under-prepared England for a two-Test series, and the hosts see an opportunity for an upset.
England head into the series without Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes and with less than two days of match practice, while Sri Lanka are keen to bounce-back after a series defeat to South Africa.
Sportsmail’s Nasser Hussain caught up with Sri Lanka legend and Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene ahead of the series.
I know Sri Lanka have asked you in the past, and you felt they hadn’t taken on board some of your proposals, but in the long term would you like to coach the national side?
For me the biggest hurdle is to be involved full-time, whether it’s franchise cricket or a national team. I don’t see myself being a coach who’s going to be involved with one team for 12 months a year. That’s not enjoyable for me.
It’s got nothing to do with Sri Lanka Cricket as such, and I’ve always said I’m happy to contribute and help the team — as long as what I see is wrong has been corrected. It hasn’t happened over the years.
I don’t want to walk in and be a figure in a process where I know the system hasn’t allowed cricketers or the team to evolve.
The talent in Sri Lanka has always been remarkable. What is it like at the moment?
The raw ingredients are there. It’s just that a lot of the guys struggle with the pathway after school. The domestic structure has so many teams, so the quality gets diluted pretty quickly, and people make wrong decisions.
Not all the coaches are good enough, so we lose a lot of talent in that process. It’s not a professional setup at that level, and a lot of the guys give up and do other things, like league cricket in Australia or England.
Is Test cricket still financially viable in Sri Lanka?
We still have an appetite for Test cricket. Because of the history of Sri Lanka’s Test team, they all want to play cricket at that level. But if you don’t improve and evolve, five or 10 years down the line we will have guys who only want to play white-ball cricket.
The recent T20 Lankan Premier League was good. We’ve needed something like that for the last 10 years, to make the game at that level financially viable.
The Test team have just come back from South Africa with a lot of injuries. Where are they at the moment?
I was pretty pleased with the way they started in South Africa, putting nearly 400 on the board at Centurion. But the bowlers broke down, and that was a real issue. Guys who played at the LPL still had niggles, and they went into the second Test quite depleted.
For the English tour, we’ve got Angelo Mathews coming back after the injury, and Dinesh Chandimal should be fit as well — two experienced guys in the middle order to support Dimuth Karunaratne at the top. It’s about that discipline in the longer format: how do you cope with pressure for four to five days?
Any promising players England fans might not have heard of?
It’s unfortunate that Dhananjaya de Silva has a long-term injury, but Kusal Mendis is a talent, and has scored seven hundreds in his short Test career. He knows how to go big.
And Sri Lankan have found two all-rounders: Wanindu Hasaranga, the leg-spinner, who bats at seven, and seamer Dasun Shanaka, who bowled really well in South Africa.
Is Mickey Arthur the right man to coach them at the moment?
Yeah, he’s one of those guys who’s quite methodical and regimental, but he’s a good coach — a players’ coach. We need to give Mickey some time with the team, because he’s proven himself with a lot of international teams.
And he tends to speak his mind. He did an interview the other day when he said ‘I don’t think the pitch at Galle will turn: I know it will turn.’ Are you expecting a bunsen burner at Galle?
You know Galle: it’s going to slow down, and start turning. So those first two days are crucial, and after that it’s going to be a grind. It will be quite interesting to see how the second Test match is going to pan out, because you’re playing at the same venue.
They’ll definitely make sure Sri Lanka have that advantage of playing at Galle, but the England boys have played there many times.
Where do you see England at the moment, and in particular their playing of spin. Is that still a nemesis for them?
I think it can be. It depends on the tempo they want to play. The modern England team plays at a different tempo, but you still need someone to grind out an innings — Cooky (Alastair Cook) has done that in the past. Someone has to do that now, whether it’s Rooty (Joe Root) or someone else.
The other guys are much more high-tempo players, so how you balance that is crucial. And which way do you go with the bowlers? You don’t have the pace of Jofra (Archer), so who’s going to take up that role on a slow wicket? Sometimes you need extra firepower to get something going.
As you say, there’s no Jofra, no Ben Stokes, and Moeen Ali is ill. Is this an opportunity for Sri Lanka, on a turner, to get payback for England’s 3-0 win there in 2018?
Yeah, it is. Even though Sri Lanka didn’t do well in South Africa, they’ll see this as a very good opportunity.
The first two days will set the tone. But England have two good experienced bowlers in Broady (Stuart Broad) and Jimmy (Anderson), who understand what needs to be done in these conditions. They will fall back on them. It’ll be interesting to se if they pick both in the same Test.
How much did the 3-0 defeat hurt Sri Lanka, and how much is it feeding into their mindset now?
It did hurt Sri Lanka a lot, although it feels like a lifetime ago now. They had opportunities in that series, but never grabbed them, and England had that experience to control sessions. They were dominant.
But these two Test matches are at Galle, whereas last time it was in three different places, and Sri Lanka have a much better record at Galle. It will suit the current group of players. I don’t think Sri Lanka will be thinking too much about last time around.
Do you worry about the mental and physical wellbeing of players when they’re spending so much time in bubbles?
Yeah, that’s something you have to look at. We used to have three weeks’ R&R with our families between tours, but now they’re straight into another bubble.
That’s when player management is important. When you see guys who aren’t mentally fresh, you might have to let them go home for two or three weeks. Going bubble to bubble is always going to have an impact. If this runs through 2021, that’s going to be a long stretch for a lot of cricketers.
When I went to Sri Lanka, England were never favourites. Do you see this England as favourites?
With Stokes missing, England don’t have that same experience in the top order, so I make it 50-50. I don’t think they’re going as favourites. I think Sri Lanka have something in them. (Daily Mail)
What you can learn from Sidath
By Rex Clementine
Cricket selectors in Australia are ruthless. In certain other parts of the world they are toothless. Steve Waugh had won the World Cup in 1999 and the Ashes two times in 2001 and 2003 when Trevor Hohns, (who had played only seven Tests by the way), called up Waugh and told him that his time was up. Waugh, with a massive fan following, resisted but Hohns made sure that Australia’s most successful captain was neither there for the World Cup defence in 2003 nor for retaining the Ashes in 2005.
Everything didn’t go well for the Aussies. Under new captain Ricky Ponting they lost the Ashes in 2005 as England regained the urn after 16 years. But Hohns didn’t go after Waugh begging him to fix things. Perseverance in all walks of life is important. In cricket too. Eventually, Ponting turned things around for the Aussies. The next Ashes, Aussies blanked the Poms 5-0. Patience also matters along with perseverance.
Selectors in our backyard made a hue and cry pinning all faults on Angelo Mathews for repeated failures of the national cricket team. Three weeks later, when the team suffered a first ever series defeat against Bangladesh, they went begging to Mathews asking him to return to the side. Mathews asked them to go and fly a kite.
There is nothing wrong in trying out younger players and rotating seniors or even dropping them. Even the great Muttiah Muralitharan was dropped. But you have got to do it smoothly with transparency. Burning bridges is not the way. You don’t have to look at Australia as to how it should be done but we have classic examples in our backyard itself. Sidath Wettimuny is the bloke’s name.
Wettimuny took on bigger players than this. It must have been harder for him for the players he took on were his one-time team mates. But once he had the courage to take on the big boys, he was firm with his decisions. He knew that youth was important but youth who are agile.
Soon after the axing of Arjuna, Aravinda et al after the disastrous World Cup campaign in 1999, one thing he insisted on was excellence on fielding. So he picked someone by the name of Chamara Silva. He was just 19 at that time but took on the likes of McGrath and Warne and posted a crucial half-century during the tri-nation tournament that Sri Lanka went onto win, less than two months after Australia had won the World Cup.
Silva was electric on the field. So was Indika de Saram, who was picked out of the blues. A few months later, he would introduce one T.M. Dilshan. All superb fielders. Of course there was Sanath Jayasuriya as captain who led the side from the front and he himself was a gun fielder.
Right now what we have is a young side, but their fielding is so sloppy. They are probably the worst in the world. It is embarrassing to see the young Sri Lankans misfield. The captain has so many players to hide. There is Bhanuka Rajapaksa, there is Kasun Rajitha, there is Lakshan Sandakan and the list goes on. Surely, you expect paid selectors to do a better job. Right now, they have little clue and they have failed to do their home work. In the second ODI, where Sri Lanka snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, they conceded more than 25 runs due to sloppy fielding.
In 1999, a few months after beating World Champions Australia, Sri Lanka went to Pakistan, one of the toughest places to tour. They whitewashed a strong Pakistan side 3-0 in the ODIs. Wettimuny’s youth policy was working. The nation was thrilled. Youth was the way forward the fans said. But Wettimuny did not get carried away. He recalled Arjuna and Aravinda for the Tests despite some opposition. Wettimuny knew that in Test match cricket, Pakistan would be a different beast.
Skipper Jayasuriya could have resisted going back to the seniors but he did not. He let his ego aside and did what was best for the team welcoming both seasoned campaigners back to the fold.
As expected, Pakistan tested Sri Lanka. It needed a battle hardened Arjuna Ranatunga to bat with a broken thumb to help his team over the line in Rawalpindi. That was one of the classic Test matches that has ever been played. It was made possible by the clever moves of Wettimuny.
In a time of crisis you need a selector who is calm, responsible and who is not vindictive. This is not the first time the system has been shaken up. It had been done before. But then the risk taking was smart. Now it has been reckless. You need a father figure in this time of crisis to help smooth sailing. Not a bull in a China shop. And of course, class matters.
Sri Lanka’s contingent prior to the opening ceremony
by Reemus Fernando
When Sri Lanka’s Olympic contingent were entering the stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo yesterday, Nimali Liyanarachchi who could have easily become the country’s flag bearer was taking a seat in the business class for the first time in a long career to take wing from Colombo to Tokyo. On the same flight, Sujith Abeysekara who identified the talent at a very young age and helped her blossom into one of the country’s most successful middle distance runners was seated in the economy class.
It was not long ago that Nimali and fellow track and field athletes slept on the floor during transit on their way to the last pre Olympic competition. The country’s sports authorities have decided to provide five star facilities to Olympic bound athletes and that paved the way for NImali to travel in business class for the first time.
A winner of multiple disciplines at National Level, NImali has represented the country at numerous international competitions. No other athlete in the Sri Lankan contingent in Tokyo has excelled at regional events like the athlete from Sooriyawewa. A gold medalist at the Asian Athletics Championships and South Asian Games, the 32-year-old received a wildcard to the Olympics after Nilani Ratnayake, who was in contention for qualification slid in the world rankings. Before the lack of competitions pulled her down in world rankings Nimali was one of the top three Asians in her discipline. Though Nimali is a wildcard entrant at the Olympics her fellow track and field athlete at the Olympics, Yupun Abeykoon is not. Abeykoon qualified through world rankings and could be the only athlete who could go beyond the first round. Abeykoon, South Asia’s fastest man and badminton player Niluka Karunaratne are probably the only Sri Lankan athletes who are competition ready as Nimali’s preparation too was hampered due to quarantine procedures following their return from India’s Interstate Championship.
Athletics fraternity was curious yesterday as to why the honour of carrying the country’s flag had not been give to track and field athletes. At the time this story was filed, rooky gymnast Milka Gehani and judoka Chamara Nuwan Dharmawardena were scheduled to carry the flag at the Opening Ceremony.
Nearly one third of the countries that took part in the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics had handed their country’s flag to track and field athletes. Some of them were legends of the sport. Many time Olympic medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was scheduled to carry the flag of Jamaica at the time this edition went to press. For the first time countries could be represented by two flag bearers at the Olympic Games. Sri Lanka, a country that has won its only Olympic medals in track and field had a gymnast and judoka doing the duty.
Twenty years after Sri Lanka won its last Olympic medal has athletics lost its place as the premier Olympic sport of the country or has other sports come to prominence surpassing track and field as prospective medal winning Olympic sports? It is the first time a gymnast is representing Sri Lanka. She was ranked 114th at the 2019 World Championships but according to NOC, she has received a continental quota spot due to cancellation of the Asian Gymnastic Championship.
Now take a look at Sri Lanka’s track and field athletes. Forget about the two track and field athletes in Tokyo. There are more than half a dozen track and field athletes who were among the top 100 athletes in the world in their respective disciplines including one who produced the 15th best performance of the world this year. They could not improve their rankings due to lack of opportunities to take part in top ranked Championships.
Sri Lanka on course for consolation win
Avishka Fernando anchored the Sri Lankan innings after the hosts were set a target of 227 to win the third and final ODI against India at RPS yesterday.
By Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka looked on course for a consolation win the third and final ODI against India at RPS yesterday as they reached 92 for one at the end of 15 overs chasing a target of 227. Avishka Fernando gave the hosts a solid start in the dead rubber and was unbeaten on 46 when this edition went to print.
Fernando played some exciting strokes and his pulled six off Navdeep Saini was the shot of the day. It reminded of the power hitting of another Moratuwaite – L.R.D. Mendis.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa was unbeaten on 28.
Spinner Praveen Jayawickrama and Akila Dananjaya came up with outstanding performances picking six wickets between them as India were bowled out for 225 after being 157 for three at one stage.
Sri Lanka did three changes to the side that lost the second ODI while India came in with six changes handing debuts for five players, virtually playing a third string team.
Sri Lanka’s fielding that was a huge let down during the previous game showed some improvement as they backed up the bowlers to reduce India to 225 in 43.1 overs.
Dananjaya started off poorly conceding three boundaries in his first three balls on his return to limited overs cricket and exhausted a review too in his very first over. Sri Lanka had indicated that they were going to consider the off-spinner only for T-20 cricket but were forced to bring him back following injury to Wanindu Hasaranga.
Jayawickrama, who had claimed 11 wickets on his Test debut against Bangladesh in May, bowled superbly as he claimed the wickets of three middle order batsmen in his second ODI. With the left-arm spinner striking at regular intervals, India never got any momentum in their innings.
Dananjaya dismissed Suryakumar Yadav when he trapped him leg before wicket and claimed two more wickets towards the tail end of the Indian innings.
Skipper Dasun Shanaka, who had got his act woefully wrong in the previous game, had things very much under control yesterday with some clever bowling changes. He himself sent down eight overs and claimed the key wicket of Prithvi Shaw for 49.
Rain had stopped play for 100 minutes during the Indian innings and the game was reduced to 47 overs.
A win is crucial for Sri Lanka as they would gain ten points in the ICC World Cup Super League.
Police detain Bathiudeen’s wife, father-in-law and another suspect over domestic aide’s death
Flame throwers as deterrent to wild elephant incursions into cultivations?
Durian prevent cancer and improve digestion
7-billion-rupee diamond heist; Madush splls the beans before being shot
The Burghers of Ceylon/Sri Lanka- Reminiscences and Anecdotes
Unfit, unprofessional, fat Sri Lankans
news4 days ago
J’pura University scientists: Sinopharm very effective against Delta variant
Business5 days ago
Hayleys Fabric cuts carbon footprint by 15% with Sri Lanka’s largest solar roof
Sports6 days ago
Stunning Indian batting flattens Sri Lanka
Sports6 days ago
An American hurdling for Sri Lanka at Olympics
Business5 days ago
Sri Lanka Tourism to request debt and interest waivers from Central Bank
Sports5 days ago
Find remedies or face consequences
Sports3 days ago
Features5 days ago
Fame for Sri Lankan…in Europe