Sri Lanka v India, 1st ODI, Dambulla January 28, 2009

Sri Lanka's struggles stem from Jayawardene

There isn't a notice on the Sri Lankan dressing-room door but if there was one, it would read: 'If you find the old Mahela Jayawardene please return. We need him. Desperately'

Mahela Jayawardene's dismal form is starting to affect the manner in which the rest of the batsmen are performing © AFP

There isn't a notice on the Sri Lankan dressing-room door but if there was one, it would read: 'If you find the old Mahela Jayawardene please return. We need him. Desperately.' The man responsible - if indirectly - for the debacle today, and for the team's recent struggles, is the man leading the side. It was a game India won as much because of Sri Lanka's middle-order problems as on their own strength. India didn't lack gunpowder; they just didn't have to fire.

The effect of Jayawardene's woes on Sri Lanka were reflected in Sanath Jayasuriya's reaction when Kumar Sangakkara fell. There appeared a touch of anger as he punched in the air when Sangakkara chipped straight to midwicket, a realisation that Sangakkara's fall would be the beginning of the end. And it was. Though Farveez Maharoof tried his best with a breezy knock, the rest couldn't put together a total to test India on this pitch.

The middle-order muddle not only affected what happened after Sangakkara's dismissal, it influenced what transpired before that. Jayasuriya wasn't allowed to be himself, Sangakkara knew one mistake would prove too costly and it didn't help that Tillakaratne Dilshan fell early. Even though his career as an effective opener is just one series old, he seems to have already made an impact on the way the team plays; he allows Jayasuriya the luxury to attack and enables Sangakkara to be fluent and importantly, help hide Jayawardene.

Today, with Dilshan's early wicket, Jayasuriya was forced to restrain himself. Dhoni, not one to miss a trick, milked the situation by getting in a lot of overs from various irregular bowlers. Jayasuriya must have been severely tempted to free his arms against them but he held back. And so Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina rotated their arms without much fear, indeed almost hoping Jayasuriya would have a go at them and lose his wicket. Dhoni later said they wanted Jayasuriya to take risks and that they played to a plan. But Jayasuriya was like a monk, cocooned in his own meditative zone, oblivious to the dancing damsels.

Jayawardene has to find his bearing and perhaps, the change in fortune will come on home ground. For that the captain has to bat up the order, back himself - and find himself

Yusuf Pathan too had one of his best days with the ball. It was the first time in the last seven games that he bowled more than four overs. In his career, only against Hong Kong and Bangladesh has he bowled his full quota of ten overs; partly because Dhoni used him as a filler but mainly because he leaked runs. Today, though, with Jayasuriya and Sangakkara inhibited by the team's needs, Yusuf was allowed to get into a rhythm. Even so, Jayasuriya did finish at almost a run-a-ball and on another day, situation permitting, he would have done better than the 49 runs at even pace from the trio of Rohit, Raina and Yusuf on a pitch that didn't offer any turn. That he went on to become the oldest man to score a hundred beating Geoffrey Boycott's record shows what a class player he is.

Jayawardene, with a highest of 28 in 13 innings, demoted himself today but, even though he explained it as a ploy to use the batting Powerplay, it is surely not the permanent solution. The two men in the lower order - Thilina Kandamby and Chamara Kapugedera - are still learning their trade and it would be unfair to place too much of a burden on them. Some would also construe the captain's demotion as an admission that he can only hit himself out of his current form.

Demotion might have worked in a different team with batsmen in form but not in this side. It can still work but it will be the tougher route to take. Jayawardene has to find his bearing and perhaps, the change in fortune will come on home ground. For that the captain has to bat up the order, back himself - and find himself. That notional notice on the dressing-room door can then be consigned to history.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sherwai on January 29, 2009, 18:37 GMT

    How easily start blaming when a cool captain like Jayawardene, is struggling to find his form. Till yesterday he was the hero of the Sri Lankan Team and he could no wrong. However it is now that he must get the support from his team-mates and the general public, who will be hounding for his skin.

    In the sub-continent, people have very short memories, now is the time for the people to support Jayawardene and hope that he brings back the glory that is usually associated with him.

  • Nikhil on January 29, 2009, 12:50 GMT

    It is a very well written article by Sreeram Veera. All the points which he makes in this article make sense. Also, after going through most of the readers' comments, it was a bit surprising that NO SINGLE reader has mentioned a point about Sri Lanka's current bench strength! Jayasuriya, Murali, Vaas are above 35. Sangakkara and Jayawardene are above 32. Come on, where is the bench strength?? It is high time Sri Lanka should look beyond these players now! Even though these are some of the great players in world cricket, they have a limited career from now! In current new Sri Lankan players, no one looks convincing except Mendis and Dilshan. Rest of the bowlers/batsmen have a lot of limitations. Sri Lanka should start finding new, fresh young cricketers now..

  • Chandran on January 29, 2009, 10:58 GMT

    Hi readers, I am from India. I beleived it is normal for any batsman to go through lean patch sometime in his career. Mahels is going through one such patch now. Sri Lanka have got world class batsmen in Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Jayawardene and also a very good batsman in Dilshan and they have a very good bowling attack with a lot of variety. I think what SL needs to do now is that they can give a break for Mahela from captaincy at least for some time and play him only as a batsman. Sanga is a very good thinker and will surely be a good captain. I was surprised the Lanka is playing without Vaas. He is a very good bowler and should be playing. Moreover Jayasuriya was not at all used as a bowler. That is also surprising. I am sure SL will definitely give a good fight to India.

  • rasanga on January 29, 2009, 9:14 GMT

    Sri lanka need allrounders to build the team like we use to do form 1996 world cup.they have to take Caminda Vaas to the team as soon as they can.he may be out of form but need to be in the team for his exprience.that no one can match in the world.he is a world class bowler.

  • Mahen on January 29, 2009, 9:08 GMT

    Luck is not alway but class will remain. India beaware! Pakistan won one and lost two. However India is thousand time better than Pakistan team hence it will be a tough fight for SL to beat India

  • Roshan on January 29, 2009, 9:02 GMT

    Got to agree somewhat with thatsy, SL team is in deep trouble much like in 2003 although they did get to the semis, unexpectedly. Then too SL had just five performers and the rest, including Mahela, were absolute passengers.

    Oh, by the way, SL were not beaten by a "far superior" Indian team, they just didn't get themselves focused - and they haven't been for the past year or so. Except from the point of view of Bangladesh and Zim no other side can say they are far superior. Yes, the Aussies, from late 90s to about 2007 and of course the marvellous Windies teams of yesteryear could have said that, but no team is really that far ahead of the rest. Who knows, if the South Africans continue their fine run they may well be able to stake their claim.

    Once they get the board in order then things will no doubt improve.

  • Sampath on January 29, 2009, 9:00 GMT

    Form is temporary. But the class is Eternal.That's what Great Chisty Mujahid says when classy players gone through bad patches.. or according to Great Ian Chappel, Mahela is a big match can keep him down for few innings but he'll come back with tons...will hope that happens soon..But we have to look at the balance of the team...Keeping Maharoof as an all rounder we have to shuffle the bowlers according to the conditions. The Great Hunter of dead pitches, Vaasi could have been a better option in yesterdays match. And a striker like Lasith Malinga should not be kept a away from the game for too long.Don't worry Lions..We'll turn it around on Saturday...Good Luck.

  • Hari on January 29, 2009, 8:43 GMT

    Mahela no longer leads from the front and so should take a break in the way Ganguly did and come back when his batteries have been recharged. His management of the resources currently available to him is also suspect. How can he say that there are at least five fast bowlers ahead of Chaminda Vaas in the present pecking order. How can he ignore this remarkable worhorse sho is still the holder of the world's record for the highest number of wickets in an ODI. Also why does he almost ignore Jayasuriya's potential as bowler, preferring to use Dilshan instead when the game was drifting away yesterday.

  • DON on January 29, 2009, 8:36 GMT

    When performance are good all the black clouds are covered but Leadership is not merely bat & ball. Debate about SL captain has created a good platform to evaluate his decisions in more constructive manner. He was lucky enough as his unethical behaviour has been cover up by good team performance. For instance end of Marven (World cup performance), refusal of Sanath (wins in England) Vassy's drop (Good Pakistan Tour). His poorer acts have cause the country to loose their main stay and merely caused to loss the best ODI left hander. We pray that at least his failure will open the doors to great Vassy again. To note that Luckily he god the best Sri Lanken line up than previous captains and wrong decisions has created SL first ever losses in ODIs and twice defeat to minor Bangladeshi. Time to look beyond

  • Gilad on January 29, 2009, 8:14 GMT

    Come on people don't be too harsh on Jayawardene. We all know he's going through a bad patch but all the best batsmen have them. What about Dravid and Laxman who also had bad runs but came back, even Tendulkar had a bad streak and still today he opens for India and led them to victory against Australia. And Ponting with his horrid run against Harbhajan and others but still today bats well. There's loads of examples. He'll find his form. He's a good captain. Don't forget who led SL to the test victory against this very Indian side. The first half of 2008 was very good for him and I believe he can come back and show his worth. Don't forget the ODI series (which India won). He scored 61* in the first match and 94 in the third and was the best batsman in that match. He can come back. Believe in him! (I AM NOT A SRI LANKAN FAN).

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