| Samuel Badree of West Indies during a practice session, in Colombo, on Saturday |
Colombo: Mahela Jayawardene’s captaincy has been praised all through the ongoing World T20.
On the eve of the Sri Lanka-West Indies final, Mahela, during a media conference, referred to the one and only Chris Gayle as “just another player”. One has to wait till Sunday evening to find out the Sri Lanka captain is right.
The following are excerpts
On the preparation
The preparation has been pretty good… We’re not thinking too much about the other finals (that we have played in), what has happened and all that… We were not good enough to win those finals, but we believe we have the capacity to win this one. We’ve played good cricket to get this far and we’re looking forward to an exciting final on Sunday.
On the Lankan top-order
I thought the top order batted pretty well in the last game (semi-final, against Pakistan)… In tough conditions, we had a game plan to make sure that we didn’t give unnecessary wickets to a good Pakistan bowling unit. We didn’t let them to get on top of us and we controlled things. Probably in the middle period, maybe three-four overs, we just couldn’t capitalise because of some good Pakistan bowling. But we handled the situation pretty well… We got the score we thought would be competitive… Going into the big final, we are pretty confident… We just go out tomorrow to deliver and that’s it.
The team combination
We haven’t finalised how exactly we are going to go about it… I agree that the way the Aussies attack and the way we do is quite different… We haven’t tried attack like any other team. We have our strengths and we will try to work on our strength. We’ll try to react to the situation and that is very important in the T20 format.
On the West Indies team
They’ve played better in patches… They won the Champions Trophy in 2004, in England… They played good cricket before we beat them in the World T20 semi-finals, in England, in 2009… So, you’ve got to admire them. They’ve got some quality players. Like any other team, they have strengths and weaknesses. Both the teams deserve to be in the final.
If the team’s worried about Chris Gayle
Not too much, because that’s not the way we went about this tournament. We never went after individual players, that’s why we’ve controlled things. He is just another player in a very good West Indies team… So, we have to focus on the entire team. The way we analyse and have a game plan is for a team, not for individuals. Records and numbers are always there, but it’s all about how you perform on the given day. So we just need to react to the situation on the day.
On Gayle’s statement that West Indies would be the champions
When somebody says something like that, is the pressure on us or on him? Don’t know how to react to that… Probably, the pressure is on him when he has said something like that.
If he has any target in mind after the way West Indies batted on Friday
I think they had a ball with the bat on Friday night... Just one of those days when everything was hitting middle of the bat and the Aussies struggled. But it’s on how you perform on the day, how you execute a game plan. We need to react to those situations. It’s a great challenge to have as a cricketer, especially in a World cup final.
If spinners would play a key role
Both the teams have good spinners… The names matter, but it’s about delivering on the day. We are quite confident with the bowlers we have got and what they have done so far in the tournament. The surfaces have looked very familiar throughout the series… Don’t see it being that different.
On the view that the pitch for first semi-final, against Pakistan, was not ideal
The ICC controls the wickets, not SLC. They schedule the strips, the matches on each pitch… If you think that the pitch was heavily loaded, then they had three of the best spinners in world cricket… So if you think we’ve prepared a wicket suited for our spinners, that is wrong. When you have that quality of spinners in the opposition, why would you want the wicket to suit them? I had just two spinners… It was an even contest.
Having played in three losing semi-finals/finals
It always goes back to that... Going into the final is fantastic, don’t take it as a negative thing. We had tried our best in those finals, but the other team had played better cricket. So going into this final, what we would try and do is to play better cricket than the opposition, it’s as simple as that. We don’t think too far ahead of ourselves, we don’t want to go back in history and see how to overcome this. We’ll try and back our abilities in what we’ve done in this tournament. Other than that, I don’t know how you can approach a final.
On his captaincy
I think both the times that I’ve led my country, I’ve been put into the situation. On the first occasion, I think Marvan (Atapattu) got injured and then I continued. I’ve always said that I’m very proud to be part of a Sri Lankan team and to lead it. This time, there’s another opportunity, as a group rather than as an individual, to do something special… So looking forward to that, it’s not much pressure. I’ve always said that I’ve first seen myself as a player in the team and then as a leader. Decision-making comes in different stages and you don’t think too much about it, you just concentrate on your contribution as a player to the team. That is the most important thing.
Test cricket vis-à-vis T20 cricket
What has worked for me is a lot of hard work while playing the longest version of the game. To play any sort of cricket, you have to have a base and that is what you build on. If you see most of the successful cricketers even in the T20 format, the guys who are playing Tests have built on that.
It’s great that youngsters are getting involved, playing T20… Then, the next challenge is to challenge themselves to play the 50-over game and then become a Test cricketer. David Warner is probably one of those examples, starting as a T20 player and now he is successful in Tests as well. You can do it the other way round, but it is up to the individual to better himself as a cricketer and challenge himself.