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September 10, 2012
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has said a phalanx of allrounders will be his side's biggest strength in the upcoming World Twenty20, because of the balance and flexibility they afford the team. Angelo Mathews and Jeevan Mendis are in Sri Lanka's squad as batting allrounders, while Thisara Perera's forte is with the ball. Nuwan Kulasekara has also batted well in the last eight months in addition to opening the bowling, and opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan has contributed reliable offspin as well.
"[The allrounders] give us a lot of options in our team combination, so we can pick more batsmen or more bowlers to suit conditions and opposition, and still have a balanced team," Jayawardene said. "They give me options, because if you have some guys who aren't hitting their stride, I can keep rotating the bowlers and one bowler having an off day won't hurt us. Likewise, if someone who wouldn't be a first-choice bowler is going really well and getting wickets, you can get four really good overs out of him. If your bowlers can bat as well, that gives you the depth in your line-up."
Mathews and Dilshan scored heavily during the recently concluded SLPL, while Perera also struck form with the bat. Mathews' average of 70.33 was the highest in the league among batsmen who had scored more than 100 runs, and his aggregate of 211 put him at second in the top run-scorers' list. Dilshan finished two places behind, having made 195 in one fewer innings.
Jayawardene said the progress of Mathews and Perera had been particularly encouraging, given their performances over the last 18 months. "[Perera] has worked on his bowling and he has seen the results of that in the last year, where he picked up a lot of wickets for us, and there's a lot to like about how he goes about his game. We've all seen what [Mathews] can do as well. He played an amazing knock in the SLPL final, and he's been playing those back-against-the-wall kinds of innings for Sri Lanka in the past, so those two look very promising for us. "
Jayawardene said that despite several players being called upon to contribute in both disciplines, they are each aware of not neglecting their primary skill. "I don't think there will be a problem with that, because everyone knows what they have to do and what their focus is," he said. "We have a unit that has been together for a while, and everyone knows their role in the team."
Sri Lanka made the final in three of the last four limited-overs World Cups, but Jayawardene said his side's inability to convert those chances into titles was not the result of a lack of mental fortitude. "Getting ourselves into the semi-finals and final means that we are doing most of the things right, but perhaps we need to push a little bit more in a big game, like a final, to win it," he said. "I've always said that playing in big tournaments and playing well is a big plus. Yes, we've stumbled in a few finals in the last five years, but I look at it in a positive way and say, 'We're getting there and doing the right thing'."
Sri Lanka have picked 18-year-old spin bowler Akila Dananjaya in their World Twenty20 squad, despite him having played only six professional games in his career, all during the SLPL in August. Jayawardene said the team management was mindful about exposing Dananjaya to international cricket too early, but will not hesitate to play him, should he respond well to being in the international side. "We have to see how he reacts and handles himself around the squad. From what I've seen in the provincial tournament, he doesn't look scared at all. We've got two senior spinners [Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis] in the squad who can do the job, but if Akila is up to the task, we will use him."
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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