Jayawardene backs team to adapt to NZ conditions
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka captain, has called on his side to compete hard in New Zealand conditions and expressed faith in the youngsters called up for the forthcoming Test and one-day series.
"New Zealand are favourites to do well in their conditions, but once you start competing you will be asking questions from them and get them thinking," said Jayawardene before Sri Lanka's departure. "That's when you can actually put pressure on them. Once you start adding to that pressure you can start taking the advantage away from them."
Jayawardene singled out the two rookies in Sri Lanka's squad, Chamara Silva and Akalanka Ganegama. "For them it will be a case of pushing the guys who are in the team because we've got two in-form players in the squad, which I've always wanted to have because that's a healthy environment to be in," he said. "Both of them are very talented cricketers and we want them to be in our squad for a long time, not only for this tour."
Asked as to whether his nomination for Captain of the Year at the ICC Awards put any additional pressure on him, Jayawardene replied: "I never think myself as a captain in the team but just as a player who wants to contribute to the game. I only put my captain's cap on when I have to make decisions on the field and control things. Personally I would like to keep improving on what I've been doing right now and be more consistent with my game. That's my challenge personally.
"I am a firm believer that Test cricket is the game. That's where you can be tested and that's where you can actually take on challenges and challenge yourself personally to see where you want to be."
Jayawardene also welcomed Prasanna Jayawardene's inclusion in the Test squad. "We realised from the amount of cricket we play that [Kumar] Sangakarra needs a break. One-day cricket is different. Keeping wickets for 50 overs is not an issue. In Test cricket the talent he has, he can offer us more with his bat if he is fresh," he said. "The other good thing is that Prasanna is batting pretty well. When you have somebody who is doing a good job for you at No. 7 and who can keep wickets as well, you are in an ideal situation to relieve Sanga. It is important that Prasanna keeps improving as a batsman."
Tom Moody, Sri Lanka's coach, denied that his team was in danger of peaking too early ahead of next year's World Cup. "I don't think we are anywhere near our best now... I'd be disappointed if we were," he said. "I think we are building towards our best. I like to think that come the World Cup we should be the best we possibly can be as a team at that point."
Moody was fully aware of the challenges facing Sri Lanka in New Zealand, particularly for the batsmen. "I am seeing signs already just in the preparation of this tour, the players are going over there with an open mind," he said. " We left grass on the NCC practice wickets and had the bowlers using new balls intentionally just to get the batsmen accustomed to the ball seaming and swinging."