Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Mahela Jayawardene- Handling Opening and Captaincy with ease

Sri Lanka is on a roll in the CB series. Nobody gave them a chance after returning empty handed from South Africa and England. Dilshan was sacked from captaincy and Sri Lanka cricket looked in deep trouble. But in came Mahela Jayawardene, former Sri Lanka skipper took over the reins once more and has taken Sri Lanka to the 3rd and the deciding final by knocking out India earlier and then winning the 2nd final. Sri Lanka has defeated Australia 4 times in this series and got beaten twice by them. Sri Lankan team is looking an entirely different outfit who have immense confidence and self belief that they can chase any target or defend any score. Add to that the top order success which is largely due to the fact that Jayawardene has promoted himself up the order in the absence of a good opener for the Australian conditions.

Brisk long starts- Much of the Sri Lankan success in the tournament can be attributed to the good starts provided by the Lankan openers Dilshan and Jayawardene. Jayawardene in particular has been phenomenal. He along with Dilshan have been giving quickfire starts where in the first 10 overs, run rate has always been in excess of 6. When Sri Lanka were searching for their first win and had bowled out Australia for just 158 runs, Jayawardene ensured that the target is reached with the bonus point and took the attack to the opposition. As a result Sri Lanka won without any hiccups. Even in the chase in yesterday's final Jayawardene along with Dilshan gave a quick start again ensuring that the required run rate is always low and the opposition is under constant pressure. The starts have not only been brisk but long too. So Jayawardene has been pretty successful in his new found role of being an opener rather than a middle order batsman.

Shrewd Captaincy- Jayawardene was always a clever and an attacking captain. In the CB series he brought these qualities to the fore completely with spot on field settings and innovative bowling changes. Jayawardene puts pressure on the batsman by having close in fielders at every stage even if the batsman is well set. The short extra cover fielder, short mid wicket and gully have been a regular feature in his field settings. And with able support from good fielders, many dismissals are affected in the form of run outs or brilliant catches. His bowling changes have also been spot on. Jayawardene has immense trust on Malinga and thus bowls him in short spells. 3 overs at the start, 2-3 in the middle of the innings and 3-4 in the end. Malinga gives him important breakthroughs in these situations. The rest of the bowlers like Kulasekara, Perera etc bowl out their overs in the middle of the innings.

Self Belief- More than anything else it seems Jayawardene has infused self belief in the team. The players are seen shouting and chit chatting on the field egging the players on. Jayawardene showed trust in the young Chandimal to promote him to no. 4 and himself played at no. 5 or opened the batting. Chandimal responded brilliantly by scoring runs and consolidating the middle order. When Sri Lanka needed to win their last league game against Australia, they could manage only 238 runs in their innings. But they had the confidence and the self belief and were successful in defending the total by fighting tooth and nail until the last over. Even in the 1st final when all looked lost with Sri Lanka tottering at 144-8 chasing a mammoth 321, Kulasekara stood up and played a blinder to bring Sri Lanka back into the game. Sri Lanka fought hard to reach 306 runs but fell short in the end. Jayawardene is frequently seen making a huddle and giving some pep talk to the players which has reaped sweet dividends.

Sri Lanka is looking a dangerous team and going by their performance in the series so far, they look favorites in the 3rd final. But whatever happens in the 3rd final, one thing is clear. Giving back the captaincy to Jayawardene seems to be the best thing that has happened to Sri Lanka cricket off late.

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