A year after he first took on the role of a batting consultant, with England for the World T20, Mahela Jayawardene, the former Sri Lanka captain, returns to India for his first full-fledged coaching assignment, with two-time IPL champions Mumbai Indians.
Jayawardene, who replaces Ricky Ponting as the head coach, is still a sought-after franchise cricketer; his latest stint was with Karachi Kings at the Pakistan Super League last month. Prior to that, he represented Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League. It is this experience of playing in various T20 leagues that Jayawardene hopes to share with his Mumbai players. Although he was mindful of not overdoing it.
"I think playing around the world in different conditions do help, the number of games and all that, but obviously coaching is a different role altogether," he said. "I think I need to step back and let the players play try and prepare, give them the freedom to go and express themselves
"Practically we will discuss a lot of things behind the scenes. We have got a great coaching staff to help them out, we will give them as many as challenges as possible to go out there and execute. It's very exciting to have a very talented group of players to work with which is great."
Among the things, Jayawardene said he was looking forward to working with Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma. "I think Rohit is a very instinctive player, naturally gifted. He just goes with the flow and he creates his opportunities and I think that suits quite well when you are a T20 captain because you need to react to situations out there in the middle pretty quickly and probably try and stay a couple of overs ahead.
"He has been captaining MI for the last four-five years and he is showing that. At a young age he has taken a bigger role and done that. It is important to have that versatility as well relaxed and calm demeanour. There are are a lot of things that happen, not just on the field, but a lot of things that happen around that as well, so to keep perspective and handle that so that is demands of a modern T20 captain these days."
Mumbai have a number of players returning either from injury or playing after a long break. Mitchell Johnson, whom they bought at the auction, last played in the BBL in January, while Lasith Malinga has only just come back to international cricket after spending a year out of the game with an injured knee. These are two examples which Jayawardene cited while underling the importance of managing workloads.
"Sometimes it is good, but sometimes it can be a disadvantage because they have not had much practice of matches," Jayawardene said. "They just play Big Bash and then a long lay-off. Lasith is coming back after injuries, so we wanted him to play as many games, so he will play two more T20s [against Bangladesh] before he arrives here, which is good. With different players, it is going to be different how you want to manage them. At the same time, our schedule, we get eight games in 16 or 18 days which includes travel. That is something we need to be mindful of.
"The experience factor does count because these players have played enough cricket to realise what they need to do. Preparation wise, it should be fine. We need to make sure that all our best players are on the park and it is going to be a tough season. Every team wants to win, that's how everyone goes through and we will make sure we manage everyone properly."