Mahela shares insight into team’s turnaround

By Anjana Kaluarachchi in Sharjah | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 22 2021

By Anjana Kaluarachchi in Sharjah

The arrival of Maestro Mahela Jayawardene as mentor of the Sri Lanka team has seen a complete turnaround in the team, where the team which was comprehensively thrashed by South Africa at home in their most recent T20I series, has done remarkably well to seal a Super 12 spot in the ICC T20 World Cup here in UAE. 

Jayawardene was credited for making several changes to the team, which proved to be a great success, be it opening with Pathum Nissanka or using Lahiru Kumara to create a pace heavy bowling attack, playing Avishka Fernando at number four and Bhanuka Rajapaksa at number five, and using Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva as a floating batter, who came in at number five and changed the game around against Ireland. “The main thing was role clarity for players and what needs to be done in T20 cricket. 

The biggest thing I realized - and spoke to the coaches as well - was the fear of failure, and playing at that level of T20 cricket you need to play without that, otherwise it’s difficult to get hold of certain situations and put pressure back on the opposition. We have spoken about this individually; especially the batting area is something we still need to work quite a bit on and continue to do so,” said Jayawardene ahead of today’s game against Netherlands. 

Jayawardene who has three IPL trophies and won the inaugural The Hundred trophy, was unreservedly credited for his mastermind move of playing Avishka Fernando at number four, which saw him carrying the team in consecutive matches, yet he refused to go much into detail about analyzing Avishka as he did not want to give the opposition an edge about his possible weaknesses.

 “I go with my intuition of how I see situations, where I see holes in the teams. So, then you try and verify that with data and analyze. While doing that you are actually looking at players’ strengths and weaknesses. So, to elaborate that on a media forum means we are putting out things that are detrimental to the player going forward. So, what we have done is that. 

Especially with Danushka and Kusal Mendis out of this T20 group, we needed to create a bit more power in the middle which we lacked, and having top heavy power and being top heavy wouldn’t have pitted when you are going into a competition. You need to have that spread of different players coming and doing those things and continuing the tempo,” said Mahela.

 The former Sri Lankan skipper who has always been credited for his tactical brilliance, says modern coaching is all about management. “It’s more like managing the players, their skill set mentally and physically. It’s all-round management of players. I think there is much more competition in modern day T20 cricket, and at the same time there is a lot of data out there. It’s how you use that data to back your tactical plans.” Jayawardene further explained that situation by saying handling is key in T20s. 

“With T20 cricket specially its small phases that take the game away from anyone. It can be four balls and five balls. Probably if I take yesterday’s match as an example, that six balls that Wanindu played in the power play - sixth over against the off spinner, was the key to getting up the tempo and putting pressure back on Ireland. And we knew that match up was there and Wanindu had that option and obviously they made a mistake by bowling a spinner in the power play against him and he took advantage,” said Jayawardena. 

Jayawardene always loved to have a capable bowling unit even when he was playing, and now he, says that he always believed that bowlers win them the tournament not batters. “I have always believed that bowlers win tournaments, not batters. So, having a bowling group capable of creating those opportunities is important. 

You have seen we have been able to (do that). I know it’s against a qualifying nation, still even with a main team, especially against a good batting line up, the only way to control those batting line-ups is by being able to pick up wickets and having that attacking option. So, you need to have that fire power along with spin,” said Jayawardene. 

Jayawardene was instrumental in getting Lahiru Kumara into the squad as a late addition, which has created a pace attack that has bamboozled the opposition so far in the tournament. “Lahiru has been bowling really well. Having spoken to Vaasi (Chaminda Vaas) even before the tournament, he was quite happy the way Lahiru has progressed and he has worked hard on his skill, especially the yorker. That was something that he was working on quite a while with Vaasi . He actually was very confident in executing that. 

Dushi (Dushmantha Chameera) has come a long way in the last 12 months. Skill-wise he is probably one of the top bowlers in world cricket at the moment in the T20 format and has been able to adapt to different conditions. So, having these younger guys developing their skill and having confidence gives us a little bit of edge in a T20 game,” said Jayawardene. 

He further said that the mindset he wanted to create in the team is that Sri Lanka is here to go all the way, not just to qualify for the Super 12. As coach I always believed the bowling unit is the controlling component in a T20 game, so I put a lot of emphasis and planning and they are probably going through the plan now coz planning is quite intense. “From the day I came here I said we are here not just to qualify; we are here to go all the way and try and win the tournament with the attitude they need to be in. 

Results might go our way or not. It›s fine as long as they walk inside that rope by having the confidence to do it all the way and win a game. I mean that’s something I’m proud of,” said Jayawardene. Nevertheless, Jayawardene dismissed the idea of his spending a little more time with the camp, having signed up only for the qualification round of the tournament. 

“It’s tough like I said. I just counted that I have been in 135 days and counting on quarantine and bubbles since June, and I am on the last leg. I will be in the group with the technology that we have. I hope that anyone can understand that being a father that I haven’t seen my daughter for that many days. I think I definitely need to get back home,” said Jayawardene.

By Anjana Kaluarachchi in Sharjah | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 22 2021

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