Monday, September 7, 2009

Sri Lanka wait for Sanath Jayasuriya to fire

Even the game's greats have their moments of uncertainty. Minutes after Sri Lankan selectors finalised the ODI squad for the tri-series, a local board official got a call from Sanath Jayasuriya. The anxious opener wanted to know if he figured in the just-released list of 15. When you are 40 and haven't recorded a 50 in the last seven outings at home, perhaps such bouts of self-doubt can be expected.
The experience of playing 435 ODIs and the confidence of scoring 14,592 runs appear distant as Jayasuriya's One-day average for 2009 has plumetted to 18.66. Things didn't go his way in his last outing too - Sri Lanka 'A' vs New Zealanders - as he scored just two runs.
So, as Lanka take on New Zealand at the Premadasa Stadium on Tuesday, the mood around the home side would seem familiar to any follower of Indian cricket. Headlines writing off the ageing batsman are a common indulgence in the local media these days. Auto drivers, bartenders and hotel receptionists snigger at the mention of his name, and invariably talk of the exploits of some young opener who they think should be included in his place.
But Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara has thrown his weight behind the former skipper. "Batsmen go out of form - this is not the first time. If you have two or three batsmen in form, you can manage in One-day cricket. All a team needs is few players in good touch, and the others just need to chip in."
Sangakkara is confident that Jayasuriya will return to form in this tri-series. "Sanath is out of form but this period will not last for long. He's the kind of player who needs just one big innings to show his presence. I'm sure he will come back pretty soon."
Though Jayasuriya's lack of runs has triggered a debate in Sri Lanka, New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori is too kind to harp on his rivals' worries, saying that New Zealand bring out the best in Jayasuriya. "In the past, he has been pretty destructive against us. It's very tough to stop him. I hope he remains out of form," Vettori joked.
There were doubts about Muttiah Muralitharan's participation in the opening match due to a groin strain he had suffered during the final Test against New Zealand.
In contrast, the Kiwis were excited about the return of fast bowler Shane Bond to the international fold after a two-year stint with the Indian Cricket League (ICL).
Welcoming Bond's return, Vettori said: "You couldn't really ask for too much more. It's great for him to start the way he has (in the two T20 internationals) and I think he'll get better and better. The roles he's performed, taking the new ball and then coming back at the death, have been impressive," Vettori said.

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