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Sri Lanka could have gone into the Tests against England with seven batsmen, but we chose not to, for the sake of building a team for the future
July 22, 2011
Rain rather ruined the Test series in the end, but I still believe - in spite of the disappointment of what happened in Cardiff - that we actually had a pretty good series and made some important strides as a team.
We always knew when we came to England that it was going to be a tough challenge. Playing England in their own conditions is always hard to do, but especially so for us since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan. We no longer have a player with the individual brilliance to control games, so the challenge was to find a solid and consistent group of players who know their roles in the team and can help to build us a strong future.
To do that we had to take a few risks, because we didn't want to be looking at this series in a negative way. It would have been much easier to go in with seven batsmen and four bowlers, which could have helped us make big runs, but then wouldn't have given us much chance of getting 20 wickets. We made a bold move from the first Test onwards, going with six batsmen and five bowlers, which was tough on the batting group against a tough attack, but an important attitude to have away from home. It's the picture that a lot of people haven't seen. We didn't take that easy option, but we still played some good cricket.
We can take a lot of positives out of this series. The younger bowling unit has gained a lot of valuable experience, and we know what we need to do to keep rebuilding our bowling. The only really experienced guy we had was Dilhara Fernando, who is coming to the end of his career. It's the guys like Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal who are our future, and Nuwan Pradeep, who bowled brilliantly in the Lions game at Derby but unfortunately had to fly home injured.
Back home in Sri Lanka our spinners can be relied upon do the bulk of the work, and we're pretty confident in that strategy, but away from home we have to create a stronger seam-bowling unit if we are to maintain our position as one of the top-ranked sides in the world, so we had no choice but to give chances to three or four guys who will get together and do that job for us. We need to keep working at it and give them the experience they require to be a challenge in these conditions.
While we get through this transition period, it is really up to the batting group to use their experience and carry the burden for the next couple of years. That makes it all the more disappointing that, for the first time in a long time, I had a really bad series. The new England attack was pretty challenging. I had a couple of brilliant balls to deal with, and they bowled really well to me; I wasn't given easy runs, but I also didn't handle them as well as I should have done. At practice I was fine and my work ethic was brilliant, so maybe I should have been more aggressive. But it's done and dusted now. I need to move on and I've played enough cricket to know these things happen.
|England's bench strength is exceptional, and not every team has the luxury of that many bowlers to call upon. While they have it they might as well enjoy it, because we all know how the cycle works in world cricket|
All things considered, I still reckon our batsmen did a good job, with at least one really good innings in each of the Tests - even though neither Kumar Sangakkara nor myself really got going until Kumar's hundred in the final innings of the series. The conditions were especially tough and England's bowlers are the best they've produced for some time, but the younger guys like Tharanga Paranavitana and Lahiru Thirimanne showed a lot of promise, Dilshan and Prasanna Jayawardene had great series, and Thilan Samaraweera chipped in as well.
I was particularly happy for Kumar when he got his first hundred in England. He's a class act and he's probably the most consistent player we've had for quite some time now. He was well aware that his record in England wasn't as good as everywhere else in the world, and so he was putting himself under pressure to perform. We needed somebody to bat through that final day and he did just that in very challenging conditions. Good for him. He took the responsibility, and he did the job for us - as our captain for one last time as well as a senior batsman.
Though we're now looking forward to the one-day series, England's next Test series is against India in July, and that is going to be a fascinating contest. I've already said that I believe England are the best team in the world in their own conditions, so it really depends on how the rest of the summer pans out.
If the weather changes and we get dry and sunny conditions, that will play into the hands of India's batsmen and be a challenge to England bowlers. What we're seeing in the West Indies isn't a true indication of their strength. When their senior guys like Sehwag and Tendulkar return, they are hugely experienced and they'll have the talent to put up a great challenge. England have got the advantage by playing in home conditions, but I think it will be a straight fight between India's top seven and England's bowlers
England's first-choice attack is really strong, and their next in line, Steven Finn, is pretty good as well. Other bowlers like Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan might also feature in the series at some stage. Their bench strength is exceptional, and not every team has the luxury of that many bowlers to call upon. While they have it they might as well enjoy it, because we all know how the cycle works in world cricket. They have a very good chance right now.
Mahela Jayawardene is former captain of Sri LankaFeeds: Mahela Jayawardene
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