Mahela Jayawardene speaks to Rajesh Pansare on his team’s march in SLPL, Sri Lanka’s chances in World T20
Do you think SLPL, in its first year, a success?
The first season has been very exciting. I didn’t think that it will be that big. The domestic players have taken a lot pluses out of it than the international players.
Wayamba United have quite a few youngsters on their roster. What was the thought process while selecting the squad?
We picked up quite a few youngsters during the draft. The objective was to blood the youngsters and build the team over the next two-three years. Even when we brought international players, the focus was on younger players and then a few experienced ones were added to it. I never thought the local boys can come out with such good performance.
Before the start of the SLPL you had said that there are still a few places up for grabs in the Sri Lankan squad for the World T20 squad. Do you think you have got your combinations right?
We knew there were at least four places up for grabs. One was obviously of Ajantha Mendis, who was coming back after a six- month injury. SLPL was a good opportunity for him to play some competitive cricket. He bowled really well and it got him selected. In the same way, a couple of youngsters (Akila and Dilshan Munaweera, opening batsman) put their hands up and selectors picked them.
Do you think fast-tracking Akila into the T20 squad is a gamble?
I was surprised the way he performed for Wayamba. We still got three weeks to work with him and we will see how it goes. But we still have Mendis and Rangana Herath, who are our lead spinners.
Your captaincy is being praised by your players and coaching staff.
For me, it’s all about them going on the field and playing cricket. I just want them to play their best and not put pressure on them.
Your thoughts on World T20...
All 12 team will have a chance. In T20, performance on that given day counts. Injuries are a big concern for us because we already had a few guys injured before SLPL. We have managed guys like Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera well. They didn’t bowl in some of the matches and the franchises and coaches respected the national duties. Those guys were used very intelligently by them.
Kumar Sangakkara has been picked. Do you think he will be fit for the tournament?
Sanga should be back. The cast is off now and he will hit the nets soon. We still have three weeks to go, so he should be fine. If not, then we have a back-up wicketkeeper in Dinesh Chandimal.
Do you think India’s decision to not to send players to participate in SLPL has cost them an opportunity to prepare for World T20?
They are playing some cricket and any form of cricket is good for preparation. It doesn’t matter whether it’s T20s, ODIs or Tests. Nowadays we have to switch to playing from Tests to ODIs, so that doesn’t mean we need a warm-up game. It’s all about rhythm and watching the ball. If India hadn’t played any cricket and had come straight into the competition, then they would have faced problems.
Will you open in World T20?
I don’t know. Once we sit down with the coach and discuss our plans then only I can say something on it. Batting higher up the order is what suits me. It gives me more time to spend at the crease. My conversion rate has been good since I’ve started opening. That said, we have got a lot of options. We just need to identify our goals and make sure we get the combination right.
What’s your opinion on VVS Laxman’s retirement?
That’s the way game goes these days. He may have had a chat with the selectors regarding his decision. What he has done as a player you can’t take it away from him. He has been fantastic for India. But every international player comes to a point where they have to make a decision — either you do it by yourself like what Rahul (Dravid) did or selectors come into the play. It’s all about planning for the future and putting a structure in place. I don’t know what happened but we will miss VVS in international cricket.