Cool head will win series: Jayawardene
Hambantota, July 24: Mahela Jayawardene’s Sri Lankan team avenged their defeat in the opening game of the five-ODI series with a thumping comeback against the Indians at the same venue. Thisara Perera, along with Angelo Mathews, ran through the visitors’ batting line up to skittle them out for a paltry score which their batters chased down comfortably.
Accompanied by Man-of-the-Match Perera, the Sri Lanka skipper discussed the match and his bowling attack in the post-match media conference.
On what prompted him to bring Thisara Perera into the attack early
[It was a] blessing in disguise [that] Isuru [Udana] strayed all over the place in the first over! I felt he was a bit too nervous trying to fight the wind. He [had] bowled really well during practice yesterday. We bowled [him] from both ends and he [had] bowled really well but it’s just that the nerves [got the better] of him today. The other experienced bowlers I had were Thisara and Angelo, so I just gave [Thisara] the ball because the other day he bowled well from that end as well – and he did the job for us [today]. He’s improved quite a bit in confidence. I think consistency is the most important thing he is striving for which is great.
On his advice to the players after the previous game that produced the comeback
We played some good cricket [in the last game] even though we were outplayed and we made quite a few mistakes. In the game today we were much more focussed in executing certain game plans against certain [Indian] batsmen. The start wasn’t great [and] the fielding we can still improve [upon]; it was a bit sloppy. But when you are hitting those areas you get opportunities [to get the batsmen out] and a lot of opportunities came our way today. I just told the guys [after the last game that] we were capable of performing at the highest level and we just need to make sure that the focus is there. I know some of the guys are a bit tired but at the end of the day we are playing for the country. It is a great opportunity to play a team like India, try and execute our game plan, be relaxed, and that’s what they did.
On Thisara Perera’s performance
Amazing! He’s been consistent for us in the last six months to one year. He is learning. I said the other day – what I want from the guys is to learn from the mistakes and every day he keeps improving. He is putting his hand up to play Test cricket as well so it is good for us going forward to have a young group like this who is motivated to perform.
On the reason behind India getting bowled out – poor shot selection, good bowling or the wicket
I don’t think the wicket was that bad, probably a touch slower. There were quite a few good balls as well; we bowled in good areas and created pressure. [There were] maybe a couple of bad shots as well but I will take that any day. The important thing with the Indian batting lineup is picking up wickets. That’s the only way we can control things and that is what we did today.
On the tournament
It is a tough tournament for us and now as we go into a three-match series, we just need to win two matches. But like I’ve been saying from the first day, we just need to control certain challenges better, certain situations better. Whoever keeps a cool head and finishes games off will win the series. What we have achieved today is brilliant but we need to focus on the areas where we still need to improve, have a good couple of days’ break and then refocus [...] and execute a good game plan [...].
On Nuwan Kulsekara
Because there are a lot of other guys [doing well], he doesn’t get recognised for the work he has been doing. He has been a regular bowler for us for the last three or four years. He has been the No. 1 ODI bowler for a good 12 months a couple of years back. Having him [in the team], you know what you are going to get from him. As a captain he is a luxury to have whether it is with the new ball or the middle [overs] or the end [overs]. He and Lasith [Malinga] have a good, potent partnership going for us. Then guys like Thisara [Perera], Angelo [Mathews] and the spinners get more opportunities because of the pressure that those two guys create, so definitely we are going to miss him. But that gives another opportunity to somebody to step in and show what they are capable of – like Isuru [Udana]. He was a bit nervous today but I have seen him bowling. He is a talented bowler so hopefully he can put this game aside and come back strongly in the next few games.
On what has helped Perera be more consistent
I think he is good learner. But I will be correct if I say he has worked closely with Shaun Pollock – that is something that he came and told us [about] his action during the IPL, because he wasn’t playing much. Polly has given him some good tips with his action and where he needs to be. Even with certain field settings and all, he came and said, “I need to do this and I need to do that”. He has learnt a lot. Polly is a great bowler to discuss those kinds of things with. It is a great opportunity for him so with that [advice from Pollock] and with fast bowling coaches [in SL], he has been working hard to get his pace, to get his accuracy. Something that he lacked was accuracy, hitting the seam in that good area. Because he is a tall boy, if he can hit that good area he is always going to create opportunities [to get wickets]. I think that’s been the change and at practice he is with the ball doing something or with the bat. Batting in the nets, throw-downs [or] whatever. He wants to learn. It’s so good to see young guys doing that and to top it off, IPL sometimes helps some of the players.
On Pollock’s advise to Thisara
[Jayawardene translating for Perera] When Thisara was in his delivery stride, his weight was a bit back [-oriented]. Polly wanted him to be more upright so that he could actually put more force while he was bowling and have more control hitting the seam with that. So that’s a little technical thing with his delivery stride, which he had worked on while he was there [in the IPL]. After that he came back and worked with our bowling coaches as well and he has improved. He is hitting the seam much more frequently now than he used to.
On the importance of hitting the ground running in view of the upcoming ICC World T20
It is tough [to hit the ground running] but when you are playing good teams, [losses] happen sometimes. It is crucial, the first game but you try and control what you can control […] As a group what we are trying to do is to be consistent. [...] Other than that, we are all human. Sometimes we make mistakes and try and reduce as many mistakes as possible.