Jayawardene moves on from T20 flashbacks
If anyone should have a 20-over cricket hangover, that person is Mahela Jayawardene.
Like Graeme Smith at the 2011 World Cup, the World T20 took almost everything out of him. Sri Lanka slumped to their fourth defeat in the last five ICC event finals. Their wait for silverware has stretched to 16 years, longer than South Africa's 14, and Jayawardene was rightfully worn out.
Less than a week has passed since then and Jayawardene is in South Africa, ready to play another 20-over tournament. It is one of slightly less consequence than a World Twenty20 but a pressured situation nonetheless and if he appears a little tired it will probably be because he is.
"It was tough to lose the fourth one. It took me a couple of days to get through it and get over the flashbacks," he admitted, but said he is looking forward to the change of scenery. "It's probably a good thing that I am getting back into it with a different set of players."
It will not be a different role for Jayawardene, though. Although he has stepped down as Sri Lanka's T20 captain because, he "felt it was part of a bigger picture and we need to try and groom a young leader," he will captain Delhi and is happy to do it. "This is obviously a different challenge. I was asked to do it and I felt since I captained Kochi and a few matches for Kings XI that I would do it this time."
Jayawardene has taken over from Virender Sehwag, who asked to be relieved of his duties so he could concentrate on his batting, but he still expects Sehwag to play a significant behind the scenes leadership role. "He is brilliant with the younger players. Those guys look up to him and he knows that so he always helps them," Jayawardene said. "It's great to have him in the dressing room."
Singling out certain players for roles is what Jayawardene thinks led to Delhi's run of form in IPL5. They led the points table for a long period and were spurred on by the success of their pace attack on a home surface that was specially prepared to suit them. A feature of their bowling was the blossoming of Morne Morkel, who is known to be erratic at times.
Instead of changing something tactically or technically, Jayawardene said Morkel performed well because he was made to be more accountable. "He became the main strike bowler, so there was some added responsibility on him," Jayawardene said. "We gave him a very free hand and told him to be aggressive and pick up wickets."
Through that, Morkel grew in confidence and coach Eric Simons said he saw Morkel developing. "His lengths were important, he bowled a fuller length, but it was also important to have a plan that worked for him. We made sure we worked with his strengths as well."
Delhi are hopeful that Morkel will be a special weapon for them in South African conditions. "Bowlers will have a little more say than in other T20 competitions," Simons said. While Delhi's reliance on seam let them down in the knockout stages of the IPL, they do not expect the same thing here. "We will be hunting as a pack," Jayawardene said "If you look at our bowling group, we've done well together. We've got Morne and then Irfan Pathan, who is probably the most improved bowler in the international cricket."
Jayawardene will also have a front row seat as Morkel is reunited with Kevin Pietersen for the first time since the England tour, but said the pair were getting along fine. "Those two were inseparable at breakfast this morning. We all had a laugh about it. What happened in England is in the past."
Although Delhi have strategised as much as any other team, Simons said they have been careful not to over-think things, because of the nature of the format. "The T20 game is still evolving," he said. "People are still learning to play it and teams are still trying to find the right formula. There are no rules in terms of the ideas and thinking. We have to think out of the box but not lose the basics of the game. It's exciting because of that."
Maintaining the fun elements of the game is what Delhi have been focused on, especially because Simons regards 20-over tournaments as "emotionally draining times." He need only look to his captain, Jayawardene, for confirmation of that.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent