21 September 2012 - 03:33pm IST
by Anand Vasu in Hambantota
Mahela Jayawardena stopped short of saying his team might tinker with its combination for the South Africa match on Saturday. Jayawardena said Sri Lanka would leave the decision on the playing eleven till the last moment, but reiterated that the team would not be taking the game lightly simply because it had already qualified for the Super Eights.
“We’re not looking at it as a dead rubber. We need to win and get momentum going. As for the combination we’ll decide after looking at the final wicket tomorrow,” said Jayawardena. “The weather has also been a bit unpredictable, so we’ll leave it to the end. The options are pretty open so we’ll see what the best combination is that we can put up against South Africa.”
After a heavy downpour on Friday morning, normal service resumed in the afternoon as the unforgiving sun beat down on the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium. “We’re playing on the same wicket that we played on the other day (against Zimbabwe). I think they’ve prepared wickets expecting to play a lot of matches on them, so in the initial matches it will be a lot firmer,” said Jayawardena, alluding to the possibility of more purchase for the spinners in Saturday’s game.
“We’re using the two centre wickets for all the matches so there will be a bit of wear and tear. That is part and parcel of the game.”
The temptation for Sri Lanka would be to leave out Ajantha Mendis, preserving the element of surprise for the later stages of the competition where it may come up against South Africa. “Some of the guys haven’t played a lot of cricket, so it’s important that we strike the right balance, and give everyone a good opportunity,” said Jayawardena. “Some of the batsmen need to get some time in the middle and some of the bowlers need some practice to gain some confidence.”
Jayawardena also denied the suggestion that there would be a let up in intensity as neither team had much to play for. “It’s a big tournament. That itself is big motivation for the guys to make sure that intensity levels are up. We don’t want to just turn up and play just because we’ve qualified,” said Jayawardena. “We want to keep the momentum going, that’s important, getting into bad habits can be a problem. So you don’t want those bad habits to creep into your game. You want guys to go out there and enjoy themselves in the middle and make sure that you go into the second round with the fresh, positive mindset that we’re playing some good cricket. The second round, every game is crucial.”
Jayawardena also did not underestimate South Africa, calling it an “aggressive unit” and when asked about Jacques Kallis’s performance he did not hold back the praise. “I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jacques would be the best all-rounder in our generation in all forms of the game. He’s improving every day and that’s because of the hunger that he has and the competitive edge,” said Jayawardena. “He didn’t show any complacency when he went out against Zimbabwe, the intensity was the same. That’s a quality that every young cricketer should have. Jacques is a great opponent. That level of players, that’s what they want to do. They don’t want to be remembered as players who used to be brilliant, and not so any more. They want to be at the top as long as they play.”