August 17, 2009

Time to set the record straight

The last time New Zealand visited Sri Lanka, both Tests were drawn. This is an opportunity to learn from that experience and put things right

It's been a busy and satisfactory season for us so far, and up next we have New Zealand, a team I really like playing. I got my first century against them, in Galle, in 1998.

I have a couple of very good ODI hundreds against them as well, and the one in the World Cup semi-final two years ago was an especially memorable knock. Hopefully I can continue to have the same kind of success over the next month or so.

It's not just because I have had success against them that I like playing New Zealand. They are tough opponents, they play hard and keep coming at you, and they are a very tough team to beat. We know New Zealand might lack in terms of superstars and big names, but they have a very good bunch of players who play very well as a unit and feed off each other's success, and they can't be taken for granted. We need to beware of that talent and concentrate on doing well.

It's unfortunate that we haven't played New Zealand as often as we would have liked to. It's the same with some other countries as well. We need some sort of system where we play cricket on a consistent basis against all opposition, home and away.

It would have been great to play a three-Test series, but then it's a long season. We have already played a series against Pakistan, and have a lot of one-day cricket and a number of other tournaments around the corner, so it's difficult to get all this into the picture.

The tight schedule means that we have to switch off from Pakistan mode and on to New Zealand fairly quickly. But it's not that difficult; it's all about mental preparation. There are a lot of positives to be taken from the Pakistan series, and we need to translate that into good form in this series. We need to recognise that New Zealand is a different challenge, identify that difference, prepare for it and go ahead and enjoy ourselves.

Going into the series as favourites involves a certain set of challenges. We need to guard against being complacent, and do the things that we have been doing well for the last two or three years. We have played some really good Test cricket, and we have to continue doing that. It's about doing the things that matter right: building partnerships, building pressure, winning sessions. If we concentrate on doing that, the results will come our way.

New Zealand's Test batting line-up is a bit inexperienced but there is a lot of talent in their team. They have good quality spinners backed up by some really good fast bowlers. So it should be an interesting challenge, one that we are looking forward to.

It's not just because I have had success against them that I like playing New Zealand. They are tough opponents, they play hard and keep coming at you, and they are a very tough team to beat

The last time they came here they managed to draw both Test matches. It was a disappointing result for us; we had the opportunities but we didn't convert them. We realise now what mistakes we made, and this is a good chance to correct them. We are a more mature team now, and we have played together for quite some time, and the guys have been playing some really good Test cricket.

There are a few New Zealand players we haven't seen a lot of, but there is video analysis; and we have inputs from a few of our A-team players, who were in New Zealand a year and a half ago, and are in our senior squad now.

What we do know for sure is that Daniel Vettori is going to be the biggest threat for us: a talented spinner and their most experienced player. His experience will come handy in our conditions. Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram and Ross Taylor are the other guys who they will rely on. Those are the standouts for us.

We have seen a lot of Jesse Ryder and Taylor. We know that they are a bundle of talent. So there have been plans drawn for them, how to control them. That's a great challenge for our bowlers, to be bowling against good young talent.

For us, we have only had good news leading up to the Tests. Tillakaratne Dilshan, Prasanna Jayawardene and Muttiah Muralitharan are all fit and available, which makes for a happy selectorial headache. Luckily the headache is Kumar Sangakkara's, not mine! As selectors and captains, you don't mind having to make such decisions. The headache of the bad kind is the one when you don't have the guys out there.

No doubt we will have some tough calls to make: whether to drop Ajantha Mendis or Rangana Herath, how to fit Dilshan and Prasanna in, and so on. But as a team we don't want to shy away from them. We made tough calls against Pakistan too. We will make decisions that we think are right for the team, against the given opposition, and under the match conditions at hand.

Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene is the country's leading Test run-scorer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • V on August 19, 2009, 13:06 GMT

    Mahela is one of the best cricketers Sri Lanka has ever produced, he's right up there with Aravinda de Silva. And he was definitely, without doubt, the best captain Sri Lanka has had so far! Great Article, enjoyed it very much! All the best for the current test series, looks like we are heading for a win! Touch wood!

  • Rajinda on August 19, 2009, 4:58 GMT

    Once again perennial water-boys like GONSIlVA & chandau, who probably have never held a bat or a ball in their life, have come out of woodworks to criticize MJ. May be they are former opponents of MJ's school days, who were at the receiving end of his awesome bat, now relegated to sidelines. But, I don't think I have to defend MJ this time around as all they have to do is check the scores of the current test match. As I write MJ is unbeaten on 108, & Sanga the better technician (according to chandau) is back in the pavilion due to a "soft" dismissal. Don't get me wrong, I adore Sanga as much as MJ, but it just shows that NO batsmen, regardless of their greatness are going to do well in every single match. It also shows how much cricketing knowledge these guys have as according to them Dilly is going to fail opening batting for tests. Well he has scored 92. Now take that, put it in your pipe & smoke it, you self proclaimed know it all pundits!!

  • Luke on August 19, 2009, 4:26 GMT

    Sri Lanka have possibly the best leadership group in World cricket with Kumar and Mahela. Unlike countries like Pakistan where the best player at the time is given the captaincy, Sri Lanka have never had to consider giving Murali the top job and have just let him bowl. With players like Herath, Mendis, Prasanna and Dilshan around Sri Lanka have a window for around 5 years to really challenge South Africa, India and Australia (before they lose a few important senior players). It's a pity they don't play more test matches - I'd love to see them out here in Aus: I don't know how long it's been since they were here last. Unfortunately New Zealand look in terrible trouble at the moment. The talent of Ryder, Taylor and Oram is backed up with poor bolwing and collapsing middle order. Poor Vettori must be wondering why he took the captaincy.

  • Harsha on August 19, 2009, 2:42 GMT

    Mahela is one of the very best Sri Lanka has produced along with Kumar Sangakkara. I rate these two individuals as the most eloquent cricketers to have come out of Sri Lanka cricket during the past two decades. They both are Organised, Talented, Charismatic, Eloquent, Seem to know their weaknesses & strengths and most of all are Very Good Leaders.

    So, my point is simple….. These so called critics whom I reckon have none of the attributes that these two poses are trying to make their two cents worth heard and are undermining pure Class & Brilliance……

    It is true we have problems in the middle order and almost all the great players are vulnerable against the moving ball at some point in their innings. Remember greatness is measured over a long period of time and achieved seldom by many. So lets wait and see what happens in this series.

  • Don on August 18, 2009, 21:27 GMT

    What is all this talk about Mahela having issues? Now its "time to set the record straight". Sederis, don't forget that his record of 374 came against South Africa; I wouldn't call them a weak team and I certainly wouldn't call their bowling weak either. Also Mahela showed great big match temperament against New Zealand in the semi of the last World Cup, I have never seen a better paced one day hundred under extreme pressure after an early collapse, and he was captain as well. Chandau, I'm sure after Dilshan's performance on Day 1 you are feeling a little sheepish. Also Aravinda said Mahela would one day be better than him for a reason, and he is better qualified to make that judgement than you. Secondly Mahela has already surpassed Aravinda in terms of test runs, with only 13 more matches he has around 2500 more runs now. Mahela has many tests ahead of him and I'm sure he will hit a sublime purple patch soon!

  • mayurathan on August 18, 2009, 15:52 GMT

    people who critisised mahela,now shut your mouths and be as nutral fans.mahela has answered for all of them with the classic knock and still long way to go.mahela has just scored 5 centuries against bangaladesh and zimbabwe.all other 21 in tests and 11 in odi's came against stronger sides.not like sanga,who has scored 3 against bangaladesh and one against kenya in odi's and 4 out of 18 against weaker sides in tests.mahela is claass act of srilankan one can deny it.but aravinda is the all time best of srilankan cricket.mahela has worn his boots for modern cricket.mahela always rocks.go mahela go

  • Geith on August 18, 2009, 13:30 GMT

    Guys,Mahela has runs against only weak teams?You guys watch cricket?2 centuries at Lords,one is enough for any non English batsman to brag about.Daiya,Haddin is probably a better keeper than Gilly.In test cricket you need a proper keeper.We could have won the third test against Pakistan if we had a proper keeper.Especially in a team like ours,full of quality spinners, we do require the best keeper available to maximize their threat.Anyone who averages over 50 is excellent in my opinion.Congrats Mahela on the 100!You are the best!

  • sam on August 18, 2009, 5:18 GMT

    Mahela has good hand-eye coordination. That's why he is the leading run getter in tests for SL. However he has piled up lot of runs against weak teams He has quite a few weaknesses in his technique. If you watch closely he plays way away from his body especially on the back-foot. He has the tendency to follow the ball when the swings away from him, essentially not getting to the line of the ball. Other main issue he has is tendency to close the bat two early when playing on the on-side resulting in so many leading edges. This is resulting from dropping the left shoulder when playing on the on-side on front-foot. Good teams have been exploiting these issues for a long a time, preventing him from doing well against good teams. Another issue is mental toughness. Whenever SL needs him to score he very rarely comes through compared to Aravinda or Arjuna. Seems like he does not have confidence Aravinda or Arjuna demonstrted.

  • Nalin on August 18, 2009, 0:23 GMT

    How does one rate a Batsman good or not so good ?..CONTRIBUTION... Mahela's Contribution in Test matches are very doubt about it,, but in ODIs he is not consistant. Following stats shows how each player performed ODI matches won by SL Innings Aveg. Career Avg. Diff. away avg. Ranatunga 99 55.40 35.84 19.56 47.20 Atapattu 136 51.83 37.57 14.26 63.68 A. De Silva 122 50,56 34.90 15.66 51.91 Jayasuriya 222 41.72 32.59 9.13 40.08 Arnold 78 41.66 35.26 6.40 38.47 Mahanama 76 41.36 29.49 11.87 33.80 Sangakkara 124 40.76 36.24 4.52 51.23 Mahela 150 39.42 32.26 7.16 35.02

    Credit must go to where it is deserved....

  • Harsha on August 17, 2009, 23:10 GMT

    Mahela, you are a FANTASTIC cricketer. Yet, people will always have their stupid criticisms. I am sure you have learned to ignore all of that. S.Lanka is very proud of you. For all those morons who question about your ability to face fast bowlers, they should be reminded of your fairly recent and great hundred in the first test against Austraila (played in their soil) that included Brett Lee. Also, you just cracked a glorious hundred as an opener against Pakistan; that just proves you can bat at any position. There will always be naggers, but you are a great guy. Just keep going and going...Don't worry about getting 100s (you have already passed 20 of them). You have great stats in test cricket. Enjoy and bat beautifully the way you always do. Thank you for your most thoughtful article. All the best! We are with you.

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