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‘We can turn the tables on England. This series is 50-50’ – Mahela Jayawardene

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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. 

 

NH:

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?

MJ:

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.

NH:

The talent in Sri Lanka has always been remarkable. What is it like at the moment?

MJ:

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.

NH:

Is Test cricket still financially viable in Sri Lanka?

MJ:

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.

NH:

The Test team have just come back from South Africa with a lot of injuries. Where are they at the moment?

MJ:

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?

NH:

Any promising players England fans might not have heard of?

MJ:

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.

NH:

Is Mickey Arthur the right man to coach them at the moment?

MJ:

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.

NH:

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?

MJ:

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.

NH:

Where do you see England at the moment, and in particular their playing of spin. Is that still a nemesis for them?

MJ:

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.

NH:

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?

MJ:

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.

NH:

How much did the 3-0 defeat hurt Sri Lanka, and how much is it feeding into their mindset now?

MJ:

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.

NH:

Do you worry about the mental and physical wellbeing of players when they’re spending so much time in bubbles?

MJ:

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.

NH:

When I went to Sri Lanka, England were never favourites. Do you see this England as favourites?

MJ:

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)



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ICC names all-woman panel of match officials for 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup

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The upcoming women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa will have an all-woman line-up of match officials, in what will be a landmark first in the game.On Friday, the ICC announced the panel of three match referees and ten umpires, featuring officials from seven countries. The match referees are GS Lakshmi (India), Shandre Fritz (South Africa) and Michell Pereira (Sri Lanka). The on-field and TV umpires will be Sue Redfern (England), Eloise Sheridan (Australia), Claire Polosak (Australia), Jacqueline Williams (West Indies), Kim Cotton (new Zealand), Lauren Agenbag (South Africa), Anna Harris (England), Vrinda Rathi (India), N Janani (India) and Nimali Perera (Sri Lanka).

Selecting this panel was part of the governing body’s “strategic ambition of advancing the involvement and visibility of women in cricket,” an ICC statement said.

The panel will also have the most number of women umpires and match referees in a global ICC tournament, four more than the nine who are at the ongoing women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup.

“Women’s cricket has been growing rapidly in recent years and as part of that, we have been building the pathways to ensure more women have the opportunity to officiate at the highest level,” Wasim Khan, ICC’s general manager of cricket, said. “This announcement is a reflection of our intent in this space and just the start of our journey where men and women enjoy the same opportunities across our sport.

“We are committed to continuing to support our female match officials and provide opportunities to showcase their talents on the global stage. I wish them all the best for the tournament.”

The eighth edition of the women’s T20 World Cup begins with hosts South Africa facing Sri Lanka on February 10. Defending champions Australia are in Group A with Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Arica. Group B has England, India, Ireland, Pakistan and West Indies. The top two teams from each group will move into the semi-finals.The matches will be played in Cape Town, Gqeberha and Paarl with the final scheduled for February 26 at Newlands.

(Cricinfo)

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ACC to meet in Bahrain on Feb 4, call on Asia Cup expected

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The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) will meet in Bahrain on February 4. A decision on the Asia Cup is expected at the much-awaited meeting where the representatives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will be present. It could be a stormy affair in the Persian Gulf city of Bahrain, with the two boards having been at loggerheads.

The hosting right of the upcoming Asia Cup, which will be an ODI championship among the continental sides, has been a bone of contention, with the BCCI and the PCB being at odds over the venue. The August-September championship was allotted to the PCB but in view of political tension between India and Pakistan, the BCCI had declared that the Indian team will not be in a position to travel to Pakistan.

The BCCI’s refusal was initially escalated by former PCB chairman Ramiz Raja who threatened to boycott the World Cup in India later in the year. A similar stand seems to have also been taken by Najam Sethi, who succeeded Raja, but there seems little support from other ACC members to the PCB position.

The BCCI and the PCB sparred recently after Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary and ACC president, announced the schedule of the council. It was responded with sarcasm by Sethi who said in a social media post, “Thank you @JayShah for unilaterally presenting @ACCMedia1 structure & calendars 2023-24 especially relating to Asia Cup 2023 for which Pakistan is the event host. While you are at it, you might as well present structure & calendar of our PSL 2023! A swift response will be appreciated (sic).”

The PCB chairman’s comments were rejected by ACC which declared that Shah’s post was not unilateral. “It has come to our knowledge that PCB Chairman Mr Najam Sethi has made a comment on the ACC President unilaterally taking the decision on finalising the calendar and announcing the same. The ACC wants to clarify that it has followed well established and due process. The calendar was approved by its Development Committee and Finance & Marketing Committee in a meeting held on December 13th, 2022.

“The calendar was then communicated to all the participating members individually, including Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), via an email dated December 22nd, 2022. While responses were received from certain Member Boards, no comments or suggested modifications were received from PCB. In view of the above, Mr Sethi’s comments on a social media platform are baseless and are vehemently denied by the ACC,” the ACC said backing Shah’s position.

With the meeting in Bahrain happening in such a backdrop, it could be a stormy affair. A BCCI official, who was in Mumbai for the unveiling of Women’s Premier League teams, confirmed a final decision on the Asia Cup will be taken in Bahrain on February 4.

(Cricbuzz)

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Brian Lara joins West Indies management as ‘performance mentor’

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Cricket West Indies have roped in legendary batter Brian Lara as a ‘performance mentor’, who will work across formats with the international teams as well as with the academy. Lara will assist the various coaches with regard to “providing players with tactical advice and improving their game sense”. He will also work with Jimmy Adams, the Director of Cricket, on ICC World Cup tournament strategic planning.

“Having spent time with the players and coaches in Australia and in discussions with CWI, I really believe that I can help the players with their mental approach to the game and with their tactics to be more successful,” Lara said.

The 53-year-old Lara’s first assignment in the new role will be with the Test side on the tour of Zimbwbwe, where he has already joined the squad ahead of the first Test in Bulawayo on February 4. Lara will take a short break in the middle to discharge his duties as the head coach of the Sunrisers Hyderabad during IPL 2023.

Lara was recently appointed on a CWI review panel following their early exit at the 2022 T20 World Cup. They were subsequently swept 2-0 by Australia in a Test series and now seek a course-correction as they build towards this year’s 50-over World Cup in India.

“I am really looking forward to Brian making a significant contribution to our cricket system by providing invaluable guidance and advice to our players and coaches,” Adams said. “We are confident that Brian will help to improve our high-performance mindset and strategic culture that will bring us more success on the field across all formats. Everyone is excited to have Brian involved in supporting our players.”

(Cricbuzz)

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