Sri Lanka in Bangladesh, 2005-06 March 6, 2006

Jayawardene enjoying captaincy challenge

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Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's interim captain in the absence of Marvan Atapattu who has been rested for the tour, spoke to Cricinfo about the first Test against Bangladesh and the performances of his young players, many of who are bidding to stake long-term claims to regular places within the side.



Mahela Jayawardene: 'My focus is now on converting my good starts and fifties into really big hundreds' © Getty Images
The first Test was hard-fought in the end with Bangladesh clearly turning up for a fight. What were the positives from a Sri Lankan perspective?
Bangladesh did provide a fight. The batting of Farveez [Maharoof] with Thilan [Samaraweera] was definitely a highlight in the first innings. They showed a lot of character and their contribution was crucial for us, allowing us to secure a small first innings lead. Kumar [Sangakkara], too, continued his exceptional form. Then in the second innings I thought the bowlers all showed a lot of discipline and patience which was encouraging. They adapted well to our experiences in the first innings. Finally, we finished the match off positively thanks to Kumar, again, and also Michael [Vandort] who showed a great deal of character in his comeback game.

Maharoof certainly adapted well to the new responsibility of batting at No. 7.
Yes, absolutely. We have always known that his batting at huge potential. He has showed glimpses of this batting talent before and he grabbed his opportunity at Chittagong. I was particularly impressed with the manner in which he planned out his innings so thoughtfully. He first settled down, realising the importance of his innings, and then started to play some strokes, as a No. 7 needs to do. His shot selection was excellent and some of his strokes showed real class. We were all very disappointed that he did not get what would have been a richly deserved maiden hundred. Generally, his attitude shows that he is a player that is maturing fast and the challenge for him is now to continuing to work hard on both his bowling and batting.

Michael Vandort came back for his first Test after three-and-a-half years, an incredibly long wait for someone that scored a hundred in his last game. He was under pressure and in the second innings he rose to the challenge. Were you impressed?
Absolutely. Michael has had to wait a long time and he was obviously very keen to make an immediate impact. It was not easy for him either as he came into the game without an opportunity to adjust to the different conditions here. With the Chittagong pitch being a little slow that is not easy. In the second innings he looked a little nervous on the third evening but he battled it out and after an initial acclimatisation period settled down well. His approach was positive and once his confidence started to grow he played some beautiful shots, especially those straight drives. All in all, I thought he showed plenty of character and skill. Hopefully, he will go on now to make another big score in the second Test.

That is Murali for you. I feel that he is bowling really well at present having come back from a difficult year in 2005. During the next year we could see him at the peak of his powers.

How did you assess the performance of the bowlers?
Unfortunately - and I was to blame for one of them - we dropped some chances early on the first day which did not help the bowlers. But they showed a lot of heart, especially Lasith Malinga who always charges in no matter what time of day. In the second innings, though, I felt we bowled much better. Dilhara [Fernando] picked up two crucial breakthroughs and then it was the spinners - a reversal from the first innings - that dominated. Malinga [Bandara] bowled well and Murali was once again brilliant. He bowled in good areas and was rewarded well for his efforts. The key is that he is such a deep-thinking bowler and someone who can adjust his game brilliantly to the conditions. After the first innings we felt the pitch demanded that he bowl slightly quicker and he did that superbly. He also slightly adjusted his line for the Bangladeshi batsmen and that made it harder. That is Murali for you. I feel that he is bowling really well at present having come back from a difficult year in 2005. During the next year we could see him at the peak of his powers.

How do you rate the Bangladesh team now - they seem to be a fast-improving outfit and no longer the minnows they were?
They have some young guys with bags of talent. They also have some spirit. Ashraful is especially talented and he really took the game to us. They have lots of youngsters now coming up and they are improving all the time. They also have some decent structures for junior cricket. They just need to focus on the mental side and their attitude and they can become a competitive international team.

Are you happy with your own batting form?
Yes, I'm feeling very confident at the moment. I have been putting together some decent scores recently. But I was very disappointed in Chittagong with the way I got out in the first innings. The shot [going over the top] was on but perhaps not so early in my innings. With hindsight, I was too overconfident and should have been more patient. It is crucial that I spend more time at the crease and plan my innings better. My focus is now on converting my good starts and fifties into really big hundreds. That is what the team needs and I have to be responsible for making sure this happens.

Are you also enjoying the challenge of captaincy?
It is a challenge standing-in for Marvan [Atapattu] for this tour but it has been really enjoyable. We have a young side but the youngsters have been brilliant so far, working hard on their cricket. It has been fun and a good learning experience. There were some tense moments in the last Test and it was a challenge that both Kumar and I enjoyed a lot.

How are you approaching the second Test?
We know that Bangladesh will come at us hard again and we must focus completely on our gameplan. We all know what we have to do and we know that we can't take Bangladesh lightly. There are plenty of areas where we can improve and it is essential that we do so. We must make sure we put them under a lot of pressure in the first two days. We are looking to put together a very good performance.

Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent