South Africa v Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, Kimberley January 19, 2012

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2012, 16:05 GMT

    I am pakistani and i always favor SL and pray for their better performance because we two nations have got very friendly relations.I got too much pleased when they won test in SA and i prayed that they shud either win or draw third one though i was aware that it will push my team to 6th in ranking but still i prayed for it .One thing i don like and may be i get criticism is that not a single lankan brother is putting finger over mahela s worse performance .Its strange he is one of Game legend but when samaraveera played one bad tour he was dropped and mahela has not performed in two long tours plus his performance against aussies was inconsistent .Not only he is getting criticism but i am hearing that he can be offered test and 1 day captaincy.If my bro nation want to improve they shud blood new talent as we did and not follow the Indian course (i also like indian team after Pk and SL)who is now facing big challenge by not bloodin youth in team and old guns are misfiring consistently

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2012, 9:50 GMT

    I would say the exact thing. If you know the rain was heading towards the ground then why would you give the bowl to an inexperienced bowler (Kosala Kulasekara) and go for 13 runs in the 31st over. That cost us the game. This is clearly stupidity from dilshan. Till now i have always defended the captain. But now i am done looking at dilshan as a captain. This madness has to come to an end.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2012, 9:38 GMT

    Yes i agree to Agnar.....Herath and Malinga missed lots of overs....K kulasekara and Prasad went for plenty....SL lost by 4runs only....few overs from Malinga and Herath would have won the game. I Still dont understand the selection of players....where is Jeewan mendis ? Maharoof ? Kapugedara ? all 3 ODI's K Kulasekara was just a spectator in the team....bowls few overs for plenty runs and bats down at no 9 or 10.....

  • Bob on January 20, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    @espnchekmate You repeat yourself a lot champ. I feel sorry for Dilshan and can sympathise with him. Through no fault of his own he was plunged head-first into captaincy, despite not being a natural leader. Now his batting has suffered, as has his confidence. I hope he can find form again and perform the role he's best suited to for many more years to come, being a hard-hitting batsman, part-time offie and solid fieldsman.

  • Teran on January 20, 2012, 7:53 GMT

    Mahela if you are honest, support bringing back Samaraweera back to ODI squad to rotate big 4 ( Mahela,Sanga,Dilshan,Samarawwra ) allowing only three to play any given time. Keeping the most in-form three players in the park.

    Trust me its not suicidal, but honest and brave you will be remembered for right reasons.

    And support bringing tough coach like Graham Ford, taking SL Sri Lankan to next level. Most payers in their comfort zone.

    Lets accept the truth, Mathews does not hold what it needed to survive in this level, enough batting capability and win matches. He is yet to develop fro T20.

  • Siyadh Ahamed on January 20, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    This is reallly madness..Y SLC z gonna make changes in coach. ?..Marsh should b given anthr chance..Mahela z completly out of form..struggling 2 make runs recent past..So they shud thnk abt d future instead current situation..So d captionship shuld hand over 2 Sangakkara...If SLC may thnks sanga's speach in Eng instead of handover d captaincy, Tharanga / Mathews may gets a chance 4 ODI & Thilan 4 tests & Methews 4 T20s....As far as i concern, sanga okay for all format of d games....

  • Charindra on January 20, 2012, 6:59 GMT

    @yorkslanka - Ford didn't turn down the job bro. His contract with Dolphins prevented him taking up the SL job. But now he has been released from that contract. But yes, I don't understand how Marsh is being fired after 2 tours!

  • Reza on January 20, 2012, 6:55 GMT

    Where is Chandika Hathurusinghe? He was such an influence in the team when he was assitant coach. We will soon loose him to another country where he'd do great!

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2012, 6:28 GMT

    Mahela will be a good nominee for this moment.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2012, 5:54 GMT

    If SLC dare to interfere in this passion by axing a coach and a captain who saved their skins & dared to take up the challenge, when the others looked away, many will loose faith! If those 2 are looked at as the main culprits, many would fail to make sense out of what SLC has to say. If Dilshan's not worthy, because of the characteristics which many accuse him to posses, those were there from the very beginning. So, why did they appoint him, then. If Dilshan is not the one, why move back to Mahela, or rush towards Mathews, whose own contributions are in so much doubt (Although the talents are never to be doubted). How about Thilan (at least for Tests), & Malinga for T20s, while retaining Dilshan's captaincy or Tharanga for ODIs. How about grooming Mathews & Chandimal as VCs through different formats. But, all the while we mess with our own, at least give a fair trial for the international coach. But, next time get someone like Warne or Waugh who has first hand experience of the present

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