Packed itinerary not to blame says Mehela

Less than two weeks ago, when Mahela Jayawardene and the Sri Lankans landed in Dhaka after a spunky performance in the Commonwealth Bank series in Australia, he was asked what he had done to revitalise the side since taking the captaincy from Tillakaratne Dilshan. Jayawardene had played down the notion of a magic wand, pointing out some of the highs under Dilshan’s leadership before bringing out the old cliche, “a captain is only as good as his team”.

Today, after three defeats in the Asia Cup and little to be happy about besides the resolution of their pay problem, Jaywardene was asked by a journalist whether there was something wrong with his captaincy. He was initially nonplussed by the question, grinning disbelievingly at being asked that, before regaining his composure.

“Amazing isn’t it, two weeks of cricket does that to you, eh?” he said. “We played Australia in the finals and I can’t become a bad captain overnight. A captain is as good as his team and there are no secrets to it, just that he handles certain situations. We haven’t played good cricket, there are no excuses for that.”

Sri Lanka came into the tournament as favourites, but have been flat over the three matches. The fielding, such a strength of theirs in Australia, was lacklustre, highlighted again by Sachithra Senanayake shelling a straightforward caught-and-bowled chance off Tamim Iqbal. The bowling hasn’t shown the verve of the previous series, and some of the shot selection by the batsmen has been questionable.

“I thought the Indian game was crucial when we were 200 for 2 or 3, chasing 300-plus but somehow we failed to finish the game off and from that point onwards we have not been able to play consistent cricket,” Jayawardene said. “We have to take responsibility for not playing all-round consistent cricket, that is the reason.”

Sri Lanka were in Bangladesh less than 30 hours after completing a grueling tri-series in Australia, and didn’t have a single training session until after their first game. Jayawardene, though, didn’t blame the jam-packed itinerary for his side’s listless performance.

“We knew it was a tough schedule for us but that cannot be the excuse,” he said. “We made many mistakes with the bat, ball on the field, so we will go back home and assess it. We raised our game pretty well in Australia and had set some standards but we could not maintain those standards.”

He also had words of praise for Bangladesh’s expectation-defying performance in the tournament. “They have played some amazing cricket and as a group they have performed more than individuals.”

Previously, in a Pakistan v Bangladesh match, it was clear who the overwhelming favourite was, but Bangladesh are starting to change that notion. Asked to pick a winner in Thursday’s final, Jayawardene sat on the fence, though he did offer a light-hearted tip to both captains. “Both teams will be practising their tosses because batting second is a big advantage here.” (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)