Jayawardene defends Dilshan and Marsh
The winds of change blew over Colombo on Thursday with the appointment of a new selection committee for Sri Lankan cricket, but in hot, dry, still Kimberley, nothing had moved. Sri Lanka remained under pressure after a fourth consecutive series defeat. They trained as hard as they have all tour and they continued to search for answers for success.
"Since Paarl, we have made progress. We were in shambles in that game," Mahela Jayawardene admitted. "We have improved in areas but we haven't been consistent in all areas. The win in [the second Test] Durban is something we will cherish but now we've got two games to try and get things right. The guys are keen to show what we are capable of. We want to try and make sure we get things right."
Jayawardene will play no further part in the series after injuring his back but will watch carefully from the sidelines as Sri Lankan cricket enters yet another critical phase. Whatever the result of the next two matches, more movement is expected as a result of their poor showing in South Africa and the shift is said to be starting at the top.
Tillakaratne Dilshan faces the possibility of not having his captaincy lease renewed and Jayawardene is being talked of as the team's future leader, again. Jayawardene said he has not been spoken to about it yet but if offered the job will take time to consider it. Dilshan has been criticised from many fronts as his rash attitude with the bat appeared to translate into irresponsible leadership. Jayawardene, though, said he felt Dilshan had done an admirable job so far.
"Dilly is a good player, a good leader. A captain is as good as his team. I don't think we should be pointing fingers at anybody right now. He has tried everything," Jayawardene said. "As an individual, he will be disappointed with his performances, so will I and so will the rest of the boys who didn't do well."
To couple the captaincy movement, another change is also being touted: Geoff Marsh is also allegedly in the firing line. Since taking over as coach, after the home series against Australia, Marsh's successes have been few but Jayawardene said it is too early to judge the coach's influence.
"Geoff has been with us for two tours. The first tour he had to assess how the system works. On his tour, he tried to bring new things into the team," Jayawardene said. "As a coach, he has done what he could do. It's up to the players to gather what he is trying to bring into the side. It's tough to say how good a coach he is and how hard he has worked having only been three months with the team."
Graham Ford, who was initially interviewed for the Sri Lanka job six months ago, is being mentioned as a successor. Ford asked for immediate release from his franchise contract at the Dolphins - a domestic team in South Africa - on Tuesday to "follow my dreams of involvement at international level". Nothing is confirmed yet, but uncertainty can have its own pitfalls and Sri Lanka will want to avoid falling into one of them.
"We definitely need to pull something out," Jayawardene said. "We are very disappointed with the way we have played. We are not playing to our potential and we haven't performed. It's tough times but we can come back."
Like Dishan, he stressed that there is no need to take drastic action and repaint the portrait of the starting XI. It is more a case of filling in a few lines here and there and adding some colour where necessary. Fielding, for example, is a discipline that Sri Lanka can control but have let slip. "We have been sloppy in the field," Jayawardene said. "In the recent past it is an area where we were good and we pride ourselves on our fielding, but we have not been good in this series."
By stacking small progressions on top of each other, Jayawardene hopes Sri Lanka will end up with a more complete structure and something to take with them on the plane back home, even if it's only pride. "It's about the whole unit improving individually, only then, as a whole, we can improve."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent