Test postponements understandable - Jayawardene
Mahela Jayawardene has defended Sri Lanka Cricket's (SLC) decisions to remove five Tests from Sri Lanka's schedule in 2013, citing the board's financial strife as an understandable motive for favouring limited-overs cricket. SLC agreed to replace a two Test series against West Indies, originally scheduled for May and June, with an ODI tri-series involving India, and have also postponed three home Tests against South Africa until 2015.
Limited-overs matches are more profitable than Tests for broadcasters and, in turn, SLC, which was so mired in debt after the 2011 World Cup that it was unable to pay player salaries for eight months. The board profits from allowing its cricketers to play in the IPL as well, as it receives 10% of the players' pay from the tournament, while it also made around $1.6 million from the inaugural SLPL. The Tests in the West Indies had clashed with the end of the IPL, and according to the Future Tours Programme, the home Tests against South Africa would have clashed with the SLPL, which is set to begin in early August.
Sri Lanka begin their two-Test series against New Zealand in Galle on Saturday, and on the eve of the first Test, Jayawardene suggested the decision to cut Tests from the schedule would help ensure domestic cricket retained funding. After the two home series, Sri Lanka play three Tests in Australia, but do not play a Test against top-eight opposition for over ten months in 2013.
"The financial situation of SLC its important," Jayawardene said. "They made certain calls. As players we have to see whether we have to go another 12 months without getting paid, or our first-class cricketers being not paid, or first-class cricket being not played at all due to financial issues, or whether they need to reshuffle our schedule and accommodate something else and look into playing Test cricket later on.
"These are tough calls. Obviously there's going to be two sides of the coin. Some people aren't going to like it while some people understand it's for a cause. We need to go ahead with it without making a huge fuss. It's disappointing, but we move on."
Two Tests against India that were scheduled for July this year were also removed from the schedule, and a three-Test home series against England shortened to two Tests, meaning the teams will also only play two Tests on the reciprocal tour in England. The reduction in number of Tests has meant Sri Lanka's Test specialists have longer periods away from international cricket, but Jayawardene said the cricketers coming into the side had maintained their skills through their downtime, and were well prepared for the seven weeks of Test cricket ahead. Batsmen Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana, and wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene exclusively play Tests for Sri Lanka, while fast bowler Chanaka Welegedara and offspinner Suraj Randiv are also only picked for the longest format.
"Everyone had a good net session - not just the batsmen, but even the bowlers who are coming back from injury," Jayawardene said. "Samaraweera, Prasanna and Tharanga have been working hard with the A-team coaches, although they didn't have any competitive cricket. All three of them are batting really well. They are very hungry and ready to play some competitive cricket. We are having five Tests in a row, which is great for us."
Rain has plagued the tour so far, with two ODIs and a Twenty20 having been washed out without a result, and the other three ODIs having been significantly shortened by rain. Rain is forecast for each evening of the Test, but the mornings are expected to remain dry. The Galle pitch often takes turn from day one, but Jayawardene said he did not expect the spinners to play a major role until later on in the Test.
"It looks like this pitch will only become helpful for the spinners in the last two days. Until then, it should be a good surface and it should have something in it for the fast bowlers as well. They will have some responsibility on their shoulders throughout the match."
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka