Sri Lanka won't play safe - Jayawardene
With Sri Lanka 1-0 up in the three-match series against Pakistan going into the second Test, the captain Mahela Jayawardene said his team will not adopt a defensive outlook as they chase their first Test series win in nearly three years. Jayawardene said it is not his style to play for a draw and that it is important to maintain the momentum gained from a comprehensive 209-run win in Galle.
"I don't play cricket like that. I play to win, including charity matches," Jayawardene said after a practice session at the Sinhalese Sports Club. "I try and influence that into my team as well. Playing safe is not going to win you matches or series. You have to be create that positive atmosphere from ball one. That's how you develop the culture of winning."
Sri Lanka clicked in all departments in Galle, shutting out Pakistan from the opening session, and building themselves a position from which they had the option of enforcing the follow-on. They have the chance to close out the series at the SSC, where they have not lost a Test since 2004, against Australia. Since then, the hosts have won six games and drawn five.
Going by the number of high scores at the ground in recent years, Jayawardene cautioned that the bowlers will have to be at their top to take 20 wickets. "Getting 20 wickets on this is hard work. It's a great place for a batsman to develop his game, but not so much for the bowlers," Jayawardene said. "We know Pakistan will come hard at us."
Though nobody in the squad is nursing an injury, Sri Lanka are in a quandary whether to retain their fastest bowler, Nuwan Pradeep, after the chairman of selectors Ashantha de Mel cast doubts on whether Pradeep was fit enough to last consecutive Tests. Either Dilhara Fernando or Thisara Perera will replace him, should Sri Lanka force a change.
"It's not a bad headache to have. We need to think if we need to bring in an experienced bowler (Fernando)," Jayawardene said. "Thisara comes into the fold as well.
"Sometimes, the unknown quantity can surprise. A guy who hasn't played much may come in not overwhelmed by the occasion and have a great game. Those are factors you have to weigh in when you make a decision on the line-up."
Persistent injuries, particularly to the fast bowlers, have prevented Sri Lanka from fielding a settled bowling attack. While the batting line-up has plenty of experience, Jayawardene said there was still work to be done with the bowling.
"We are trying to develop a bowling attack that will hunt in a pack. We don't yet have the experience of a Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] or a [Chaminda] Vaas," he said. "We have Rangana Herath who has taken over the mantle after being Murali's understudy. Unfortunately, [Chanaka] Welegedera is injured."
Jayawardene had said at the start of the series that Sri Lanka's success would depend on how well his batsmen fared against Pakistan's bowlers. He said he was pleased with the progress so far, especially after their defeats in the Tests and ODIs in their previous encounter, in the UAE last year.
"I've seen it mentioned in a lot of places that it's their bowling versus our batting. We've probably won that battle until now. If we put runs on the board we will put their batting under pressure. In the UAE our batting didn't perform to expectations and that's why we lost."
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo