Chandimal is long-term No. 4 - Jayawardene
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has said Dinesh Candimal will continue to bat at No. 4 to settle into the role in time for the 2015 World Cup. Since Chandimal became a regular in the side after the 2011 World Cup, Jayawardene has given up his usual No. 4 position and batted either at No. 5 or at the top, pushing regular opener Upul Tharanga down the order.
Jayawardene said he had thought of coming in at No. 4, instead of Chandimal, in the first ODI against India, but did not do so keeping in mind the "bigger picture." He said moving up and down the order was not ideal for either him or Tharanga, but Sri Lanka would try to be flexible.
"I was tempted. But at the same time you need to look at the bigger picture as well," Jayawardene said. "The whole structure going forward for the next World Cup is to make sure that guys like Angelo [Mathews] and Chandimal bat in certain positions.
"We need Chandi to bat at four and identify his role. He did that well for us in Australia. Chandi is a guy who can bat at any position. I felt he is confident where he is right now and [we will] try and keep him where he is. We have two-and-a-half years for the next World Cup. We don't know whether guys like Kumar [Sangakkara], [Tillakaratne] Dilshan and I will be around by that time. It depends on our fitness and ability to perform at that level. We need to plan accordingly."
Sri Lanka's reliance on their three senior batsmen has been a topic of discussion and has been criticised at times. Jayawardene said that was the way it had been earlier as well. "When the three of us started off, we didn't play the way we are playing right now. There was another senior group of players who did well and we chipped in. It's the same structure going forward. Angelo has contributed well for us and Chandi got a hundred for us in England. In Australia he was the second-highest scorer in the tournament [Chandimal was third for Sri Lanka, one run behind Sangakkara].
"As long as we give them the right directions, by the time we leave they will be ready to take over. That's how we strike a balance building a team."
Jayawardene said that more than the runs made by the young players or their techniques, their handling of tough situations was important.
"They will produce that match-winning knock. We have to give them the freedom to go out there and express themselves," he said. "They will make mistakes, but how soon they learn from those mistakes, how they handle certain challenges thrown at them, those are the things we look for from players rather than the technique or the runs they put on the board. Those are the things we look for other than winning performances. How quickly they learn and how they identify their game."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo