K.C. Vijaya Kumar
CRICKET / Twenty20 will help develop the game in non-cricketing nations
Bangalore: A boyish face that masks nerves of steel. A small frame that packs a punch with the bat. Mahela Jayawardene is a man of many parts strung together by a thread of genuine warmth. The Sri Lankan skipper, a key player in the Yuvraj Singh-led Kings XI Punjab, believes that the DLF-Indian Premier League will enhance cricketers’ skill-sets.
“We haven’t played a big deal in the Twenty20 format and this tournament will improve our skills, not just in Twenty20 but in all versions of the game,” said Jayawardene.
He also hopes that the IPL will get a slot in the ICC calendar. “You need to have the best players in this tournament and if the ICC can come up with a slot, it will help the game. Through the Twenty20 format, you can develop the game in non-cricketing Nations like China and the U.S.,” Jayawardene said.
On crowd response
On the local crowd response, he added: “In Mohali, our supporters back us. In this first season, they will applaud a good performance. But in Hyderabad when Viru (Sehwag) got a fifty, no one applauded! Slowly you will get that city-loyalty but once the IPL is over, everyone will support their National team.”
What about sharing the dressing room with Brett Lee and other Aussie players, considering the tension that prevailed during Australia-Sri Lanka matches?
“Off the field we had good conversations with the opposition players and now we have these guys in our dressing room and we are playing against our own players like Murali, Vaas and others. From a Lankan point of view it is great to share the dressing room with legends, for instance Maharoof with McGrath in Delhi.”
When talk veers to Sri Lankan cricket, he admits that it will be a challenge to fill the huge boots of Sanath Jayasuriya, Vaas and Muralitharan. “Their exit, as and when they leave, will leave a hole in the team. For the last 10 years we have built the team around them and when they leave, we have to build the team around whatever we have got,” Jayawardene said.
He banks on Kumar Sangakkara to cope with the transition stage. “Sanga has been our most consistent player and I am lucky to have him as a deputy. We are good friends trying to take Sri Lankan cricket to the next level,” Jayawardene said.
With a total of 14,946 international runs spread over 95 Tests and 272 ODIs and captaining a side that has made steady progress, Jayawardene believes in staying humble. “You shouldn’t be depressed when you go through a bad patch and you shouldn’t go overboard when you are doing well. You just keep your feet down and work hard.”
The 30-year-old, who loves Sri Lankan music, believes that he and his teammates are privileged to make a difference in a nation struggling with internal strife.
“As cricketers we stay away from all political activity and sport has no barriers in terms of religion, caste or region. Every country has its own little problem in its backyard.
“So it is not just Sri Lanka alone and we are hoping that in the future we can live peacefully. Right now it is a very beautiful island and we are improving as a nation,” said Jayawardene.