Transition? That’s just an excuse for failure, Mahela blasts
Mahela Jayawardene feels that saying Sri Lankan cricket is going through a transition period is not an excuse for the poor performance of the team recently. In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Jayawardene, who is in Dubai to give away the 16th Shyam Bhatia award, said: “We had players coming out of the team on a progression, not just me and Kumar Sangakkara but many others too. It is an easy thing to say that the Sri Lankan team is going through a transition but I think if you are an international team and if the management had really put the right thoughts and process into play, we would have been better.” Jayawardene went on to remark that the retirement of players did not happen suddenly overnight. “Everyone knew that we are not going to play forever and so will (Muttiah) Muralitharan and (Chaminda) Vaas play forever. So you have to have planning and I really don’t think in Sri Lanka’s case that was there. Our domestic cricket is something that is not up to the mark. It is not up with all the other countries. We are producing talented cricketers but they are not at the level where they could step in and play international cricket,” he said. Elaborating on the state of Sri Lankan cricket, he said: “We still play three-day club cricket and that is not going to get you top-class mentally strong cricketers. We are still blessed that we have got a very good school structure, because of that we are still producing good cricketers at a young age, but they probably are getting stagnated a little bit when they are playing first class cricket over a period of time and when the opportunity comes at the national level they take a bit longer to develop. “They actually learn to play international while playing international cricket and it takes time depending on the individual while other teams are a couple of steps ahead. “I don’t want to point fingers but I think overall there should be people responsible.” Jayawardene is also not surprised at Asian teams not reaching the finals of the recent Twenty20 World Cup - despite the event being held in Asia. “It is no surprise because a lot of other countries have invested a lot of resources in making sure that their players played in these (Asian) conditions well. Lots of guys play a lot of cricket in the sub-continent against oppositions from Asia and through Indian Premier League, Bangladesh Premier League and in Dubai through the Pakistan Super League. “Even in the Caribbean League the wickets are similar and they are getting used to playing technically and tactically better. I think it is also no coincidence at the same time that sub-continent (teams) have improved playing overseas in the last five to ten years. That is how the game evolves.” To a query as to whether power hitting has taken over Twenty20 as West Indies proved in the Twenty20 World Cup, Jayawardene replied: “West Indies have a lot of power hitters because their entire game revolves around power hitting - but if you take a guy like Lendl Simmons he is much more of a player who works around and then probably hits those big shots. “We won a World Cup two years ago without many power hitters in our line up but it’s about being tactically better than the opposition. It is good to have power hitters in a T20 format so that you can hit big boundaries and sixers but I don’t think it is just that but a combination of lot of other things.” When asked how he sparkled without being a powerful hitter, Jayawardene said: “I think a lot of the good cricketers like Virat Kohli, who pretty much dominated the T20 World Cup with the bat, is not one of the power hitters but he still can hit the ball and at the same time play smart cricket. So like I said, it is a balance of both worlds but in a tournament like this it’s about momentum and teams peaking at the right time.