Nearly 40 and still going strong, Sri Lanka's veteran opener is looking to contribute to the side, but he's not eyeing a leadership role againFebruary 28, 2009
We caught up with Sanath Jayasuriya after he returned recently from South Africa, where he played for the Nashua Dolphins this season in the provincial one-day and Twenty20 competitions. He came home for two days before whizzing off on a 24-hour visit to Mumbai, his new second home as he calls it, to work with the city's IPL side. In this interview he talks about his plans for the future, the resignation of Mahela Jayawardene, and the forthcoming IPL.
Did you enjoy your time with the Dolphins in South Africa?
Yes, it was a great experience. The only regret is that we lost our semi-final to the Cape Cobras and missed the chance to get into the Champions League, which had been our target this year. Nevertheless I was very grateful for the chance to play down in South Africa. It was a fresh challenge and a good experience. They have a good set-up there in Natal. I hope to go back and play next season too, depending on my international commitments.
What went wrong for Sri Lanka during the recent India series?
I thought the first two games were crucial in that series. We could have won them both and should have won the second, when we were chasing just 256. That was a big game. It left us under a lot of pressure in the third game and kept our confidence down. India then carried it away from us. Anyway, the problem was the consistency of the batting and the fact that we did not take responsibility during crucial periods. Not winning the toss is not an excuse, but that did not help in the day-night games.
How do you rate this Indian one-day team right now?
In my mind they are the best one-day team right now. They are playing some brilliant all-round cricket and all their batsmen are in top form. I feel they are ahead of both Australia and South Africa. That does not mean we should not expect to beat them. On the contrary, I think we can match them when playing at our best. It was great to win the final game and show that. We need to raise our one-day game fast because we have a very tough tour to India scheduled for later in the year.
Sri Lanka's one-day form has been inconsistent since the 2007 World Cup. What has been going wrong?
The main problem for us has been batting. We have been talking and discussing this a lot but at the end of the day we have not been delivering. All the batsmen, including me, need to take responsibility for that. The good news recently is that [Tillakaratne] Dilshan has performed in his new role as opener. The middle order has been a bit of a concern. We lack a guy like Russel Arnold, who has experience and the ability to absorb pressure. You need that kind of player at No. 6 or 7. Having said that, guys like Thilina Kandamby and Angelo Mathews are developing fast, which is encouraging. I think the talent is there. We just need to keep building and developing.
What are your views about the right balance for the team? During recent years Sri Lanka has moved towards a 6-5 batsman-bowler combination, where in the 2007 World Cup, and indeed the 1996 World Cup, there were seven batsmen in the team.
Personally I think 7-4 is better in Asian conditions, unless you have a genuine allrounder who is a top-order batsman at No. 7. Outside the subcontinent it makes sense for a 6-5 combination. The problem is that the Powerplay rules have made it important to take wickets, hence why we have liked to have five wicket-taking bowlers. But I think on balance, especially in Sri Lanka, we can get away with using good part-timers to fill in as the fifth bowler.
You are 39 but still clearly enjoying your cricket and performing.
I am pretty happy with my form right now. I have been batting well and it was good to get a century in the first game against India. In the other matches I was a bit disappointed to have wasted some good starts, as the team needs me to go on and make big scores. I'm also happy with my fielding and bowling at the moment. On the fitness front I have been working really hard. The older you get, the harder you need to work and I have been doing that, putting in lots of time in the gym and keeping myself in shape.
What are your plans for the future, and do you think you can play on to the 2011 World Cup?
The 2011 World Cup is a long way away right now. Yes, it is at the back of my mind, but it depends on form and fitness and it is too early to say. When you get to this stage of your career you need to perform all the time. That's the reality.
Yes, I was surprised. It was surprising for everyone, I think, because he was doing really well. But it is his personal decision and he felt it was the right time, so you have to accept that. I spoke to him over the telephone from South Africa and he explained that it was something he'd been thinking about for a couple of months. He did a good job and can look back proud of what was achieved during the three years he was in charge - the England tour in 2006, taking us to the final of the 2007 World Cup, being adjudged Captain of the Year, and leading us to the Spirit of Cricket Award in 2007 and 2008. He had his own way of leading the team and I think one of his biggest strengths was that he always had confidence in his players. He always backed the players and led the team calmly, never showing any frustration. He was a good man manager.
Who do you think should take over?
Personally, I think Sanga will make an excellent captain. He has the experience after about eight years of international cricket; he has a very good cricketing brain; and he is a sensible guy with the right temperament to be a strong leader. He may have a lot on his plate, also keeping wicket in ODIs, but I don't see that as a problem for him. He can handle that responsibility easily.
What about yourself? There has been some talk of you being considered for the ODI or the Twenty20 captaincy. Would you be interested?
No way! I have done my four years as captain. I enjoyed it a lot and it was an honour to lead the team. But my job now is to contribute to the team as a senior player. I have to keep performing consistently and that is my focus. I will help and support whoever the selectors choose, but I am certainly not interested in captaining any of the teams.
The second edition of the Indian Premier League is fast approaching. Are you looking forward to it?
The next priority is Sri Lanka's one-day series against Zimbabwe, but yes, I am looking forward to this year's IPL. I really enjoyed being with the Mumbai Indians last season. It was exciting playing in front of huge crowds, and the standard of cricket was very high. We started badly but I was really pleased with the way we bounced back in the second half of the tournament. We are looking to build on that this year. I love the city; it's full of life, energy and amazing people. I was made to feel a part of Mumbai, and I'm looking forward to going back.
The IPL's critics worry about its impact on Test cricket. What are your thoughts on this?
I don't see why the IPL or Twenty20 cricket will threaten Test cricket. Test cricket is unique and you can't touch it. Serious cricket fans and the players will always love Test cricket. I do think, though, that Twenty20 cricket is a competitor for the 50-over format. That's why we are seeing modifications and innovations being made to this form of the game. That's good and will help cricket become more popular.
Do you believe the IPL needs a window in the Future Tours Programme?
Yes, I think most people accept that now. The IPL is going to be the biggest Twenty20 tournament in the world and it has proven its success. You can't have windows in the international schedule for all domestic Twenty20 tournaments, but the IPL deserves one when the new FTP is agreed. When there is a window there will be no clashes for players or problems for sponsors or franchises. This will also be a positive for national cricket boards by raising funds through the Champions League. For a country like Sri Lanka, that revenue is very important for the development of the game.
Courtesy : Cricinfo