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November 12, 2007
Mahela Jayawardene joined Trevor Bayliss, Sri Lanka's coach, in support of Marvan Atapattu as the veteran opener faced an uncertain cricket future following an outburst in which he branded national selectors as 'a set up muppets headed by a joker'.
Atapattu's fate, whether he remains a member of the current Sri Lankan team in Australia, hinges on what action Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) takes over the remarks. The outburst came at the end of the third day's play of the first Test at Brisbane and has become the key topic of discussion in cricket circles ever since.
A senior SLC source in Colombo said that Atapattu may be asked to withdraw his statement but whatever decision the board takes, Atapattu has the full support of his captain and coach.
"We definitely want Marvan [Atapattu] to go to Hobart [for the second Test]. He's worked really hard in the three to four weeks he has been with us. His contributions at team meetings, in the dressing room and off the field have been brilliant," Jayawardene said.
"Whatever he had to say out there [at the press conference] was something really personal that was bothering him for a while. It's been an episode that has been happening for the past thee-and-a-half months or so. It was nothing new to us. As a leader I would love to have him in Hobart. Whatever decision that SLC makes we will have to accept."
Jayawardene stated that the issue surrounding Atapattu did not affect his team's performance. "Whatever issues Marvan's had with the selectors he has not brought them into the dressing room but kept them outside it, which is good as we have a very good dressing room atmosphere. He showed what a class cricketer he is the way he went about his business. As a captain I don't concentrate on those kinds of things which I can't control. My focus and the team's focus was on the match so was Marvan's.
"We have restrictions on players conduct on tours. The cricket authorities will have to deal with it and take the appropriate action. As a tour party we don't have any control over that," he said.
Speaking on the selectors issue, Jayawardene said: "Selectors make decisions which some like and others don't. There will be certain risks in any setup not just in Sri Lankan. The right thing to do is to sort them out behind closed doors rather than bringing it out into the open. It's not going to be solved just because you do that."
Bayliss confirmed that Atapattu is still a part of the touring side. "The way he batted in this match, he was one of our better players in the first innings. He's batted well in the warm-up games as well and he is an important part of the set up at the moment. The comments he made didn't have any effect on his involvement in the team whatsoever."
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