Mahela admires young blood
The Sri Lankan team have come to play the Asia Cup on a bit of a high. Although they lost the best-of-three CB Series finals to Australia on Thursday, it was a narrow defeat and their journey to the finals of a tough tournament is part of an upward swing in performance after having a bit of a difficult time following the 2011 World Cup, in which they were runners-up.
Mahela Jayawardene, who took over the captaincy from Tillakaratne Dilshan at the start of the CB Series, indicated that the team was finally settling down after a period of upheaval following the World Cup when he spoke to the media at a local hotel yesterday, ahead of the Asia Cup starting today.
“To be honest, I don't think we were struggling after the World Cup. The first six months obviously was a challenge for us, a lot of new faces coming into the team, and I thought [Tillakaratne] Dilshan did a very good job,” said Jayawardene when asked whether his captaincy was the difference. “I think he [Dilshan] introduced a lot of good things to the team, a lot of youngsters came in and those youngsters are now finding themselves. I think a lot of credit goes to the entire team, the way we played in Australia, showed a lot of character and adaptability in tough situations and handled ourselves well. The challenge is now to continue that good work and have a good Asia Cup.”
A big positive for the Lankans is some of the youngsters in their ranks realising their potential with big performances in the tri-series in Australia. None have shone more brightly than Dinesh Chandimal, who headed the averages during the Australia series in which he scored four half-centuries in eleven games, while Lahiru Thirimanne also put his hand up with two fifties in crucial situations.
“One of our challenges after the World Cup was to rebuild the team and introduce youngsters,” said the Sri Lanka skipper. “I thought Chandimal had a great tour of Australia, even before that in England he batted really well. Thirimanne, quite surprisingly is showing a lot of potential at number five which is great for us.”
One negative for Sri Lanka may be the amount of cricket they have played recently, with the third CB Series final on Thursday being their fifth game in ten days. Jayawardene however felt that it was part of being an international cricketer.
“What we are trying to do is give guys a total break from cricket for a couple of days and recharge their batteries and focus on the Asia Cup after that. So there will be a lot of discussions and tactical planning during this period and not so much training to make sure that the bodies recover from the schedule we had,” Jayawardene said. “International cricket is such now, you need to adapt very quickly mentally and physically to the schedules that we have. So no complaints, just try to be as professional as we can be.”