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May 26, 2013
Former captain, Mahela Jayawardene feels Sri Lanka will be severely tested during the ICC Champions Trophy. Sri Lanka are in Group A with host England, Australia and New Zealand, three countries that bank on pace for success, and they open their campaign on June 9 against New Zealand in Cardiff.
"It's a tough group in those conditions but what we have to think of [is] how we've played in such big tournaments in the past," Jayawardene said. "We should not think of the result but just take one game at a time and move on. That's what we've done in the past in big tournaments with great success.
"We've got the talent, we just need to go out there and back ourselves and perform."
The top two teams in each group will qualify for the semi-finals and Sri Lanka need to win at least two of their three league matches to progress to the next stage.
A veteran of 391 ODIs - third behind Sachin Tendulkar (463) and Sanath Jayasuriya (445) in the list of players with most ODI appearances - Jayawardene was wary about Sri Lanka's batting in English conditions. "Our batting will be tested, but the last time we were there we countered them well. We've got the capacity to do that and hopefully give our bowlers the opportunity. We should not think too far ahead and just concentrate on those little things." Jayawardene also holds the record for the most consecutive appearances for Sri Lanka in Tests (93) and ODIs (122).
The Champions Trophy will be his first major international tournament since the T20 international against Australia in January. Jayawardene missed the Test and ODI series against Bangladesh after fracturing a finger during a domestic game in February. He returned to competitive cricket in the IPL, captaining Delhi Daredevils.
"I wasn't used to that kind of injury and it was a bit tough," Jayawardene said. "Initially, it was a bit of a struggle for me to hold the bat but I had to push myself because that was the only way I could get better and get my mobility back."
"The first two-three weeks [of IPL] were a bit tough I got hit a few times on the finger while fielding. Now it's improving and it will take about another month or so before I get full mobility. It was a bit unusual to sit in the sidelines. I was eager to get back into action. Although I didn't have a good season with Delhi, getting back to playing cricket got me going."
He had a poor season in the IPL this year, scoring 331 runs at an average of 22.06. The team had a poor finish, too, with three wins in 16 matches. Jayawardene put down his performance to a lack of consistency instead of a lack of form. He also expressed his disappointment at not being able to play in Chennai, after Sri Lankan players were prevented from playing.
"Diplomatically speaking, I think we did the right thing, the government did the same thing as well when they sent people to Delhi and Mumbai," he said. "After going and playing in India we created a better situation because the rest of India was really upset that we were not able to travel to Chennai.
"You need to look at these things in a very diplomatic way and what's best for the country. We don't want another war, we don't want to be in another situation. We should be looking at diplomatically heading in the right direction, solving our own issues and moving on, rather than getting people from outside and creating disharmony amongst ourselves in the country. We shouldn't let our emotions take control over us."
At 35, with more than 10,000 runs in both Tests and ODIs and an enviable captaincy record Jayawardene has only a few blanks left on his resume.
"Individually, I have slowly achieved my goals but now I am looking to win big tournaments for the country," he said. "We have already won the Champions Trophy, although we were joint champions. If I can get another one, it will be great."
Jayawardene, who dead batted questions on his retirement by stating he will trust his instincts to guide him on the matter, is also conscious of his role as a senior member of the Sri Lankan team. "The other thing is to try and guide the younger generation in the right direction and get them to push themselves. Those are the few responsibilities that I have while playing", he said.
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