Jayasuriya's future under scrutiny
Sanath Jayasuriya's cricketing future has been put in the balance with Sri Lanka's selectors saying today that his days as an opener are effectively over and that following the upcoming tour of India he will be picked on performance alone. Jayasuriya, 40, has been picked in the one-day squad as an allrounder who can bat down the order and bowl left-arm spin.
"What we expect from Sanath is that he should win one in three games for Sri Lanka, which he was doing in the past," Ashantha de Mel, Sri Lanka's chairman of selectors, said in Colombo. "But now that has reduced and we are a little concerned about it. In the Champions Trophy in South Africa his performance was below par .That's the reason why we have gone in with the option of playing him as an allrounder."
Jayasuriya scored freely during the World Twenty20 in England this summer, where Sri Lanka finished runners-up, and ended as their joint second-highest run-getter with 177 at 25.28. However, he underperformed in the limited-overs fixtures against New Zealand and India at home and in the Champions Trophy.
Sri Lanka's selectors have Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan in mind as the opening pair for the future and Jayasuriya's selection will depend on the requirements of the team depending on where they will play. "We have spoken to Sanath on the role he has to play," de Mel said. "He has the option to play as an allrounder. We have considered him for this tour only, after that his selection will depend on his performance. He has to perform to hold his place in the team for the World Cup."
de Mel said the selectors did not have a settled position for Jayasuriya, who was impressive as an allrounder during Sri Lanka's victorious World Cup campaign in 1996, and that his flexibility worked in his favour. "Especially in the batting power play having a spinning allrounder like Sanath is useful in the subcontinent because he can hit the ball. He might bat in the middle or in the top order depending on the situation," he said. "Also, the World Cup will be held in the subcontinent where his left-arm spin can become useful. He can perform that role because in South Africa in the game against New Zealand when they scored 300 runs he was the one who bowled ten overs for three wickets and 30 runs. He has done well in the subcontinent especially with his bowling."
Jayasuriya is the second batsman after India's Sachin Tendulkar to pass 13,000 runs in ODIs and also holds the record for being the oldest batsman to score a one-day century, at 39 years and 212 days against India in Colombo. Of the 13,377 runs he has scored in 441 ODIs, 2841 have come in 86 ODIs against India including seven hundreds at a strike-rate of 97.
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara felt the main factor in Sri Lanka's poor ODI performances over the past two years has been an inconsistent batting line up. "The biggest let-down we had is our batting. We suffered because we had lots of batting position changes up and down the order," he said. "For the batting to improve you must give the players the confidence. They must know what role they are supposed to play. Role identification has been a big problem. Except for the openers no one knew what their role was in the side.
"We have never clicked in all departments those are things the team ignored for a while. The players have now started to realise that they take a lot of pride not just representing the country but to be up to the task that is required of them by the team."
Fielding was one of the key areas where Sri Lanka suffered during the Champions Trophy and to address the poor standards and improve them Sri Lanka Cricket acquired the services of Gavin Fingleson, a former Olympic baseball player.
"He didn't come and change but showed us how do things right. He showed us little points that will make us better and quick fielders, at the same time we also realized to be quicker on the field you've got to be fitter as a side," Sangakkara said. "We started doing a lot of work on fitness running. Gavin showed us a lot of drills and how you can gain that extra second advantage when going for a catch or trying to stop the ball. At the same time the most important point was to make sure at practice you do everything as perfectly, those are the habits we have to build on."