Sri Lanka captain says he feels his team is ready to go on and add the ICC World Twenty20 trophy to its cabinet
Saeed Ajmal and Ajantha Mendis are expected to play key roles in Thursday’s ICC World Twenty20 2012 semi-final between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, given the element of intrigue they bring with them.
Mahela Jayawardena, however, debunked the ‘mystery’ theory, saying both had been around long enough for the mystery to have disappeared.
“Saeed Ajmal and Ajantha Mendis have been playing for five or six years now and I am not too sure whether there’s any mystery left,” said Jayawardena said at the R Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday. “A lot of the guys have played them. They are quality spinners but it’s tough to call them mystery spinners. People have seen videos of them. It’s a big game for everyone, not just for those two guys. We need to do little things right and control the things that are under our control.”
Sri Lanka has a phenomenal 50-over record at the Premadasa, having won 54 of 90 One-Day International matches at the venue, but has lost all four Twenty20 Internationals, including one to Pakistan. “We have played different opponents, actually,” said Jayawardena, referring to the fact that two of those matches had been against New Zealand and the fourth against India. “Some of those games, we tried new players and new combinations and Kumar (Sangakkara) and I didn’t play a couple of those games. So it’s hard to read into something like that. We came into this tournament with a squad and we played good cricket and right now we don’t have to cast our minds back to so long. We need to take the positives out of the last few games and approach a semi-final. Those are the thoughts that will be in players’ minds.”
It will also be the first time in this competition that Sri Lanka will be playing at the Premadasa, while all other semi-finalists have played at least two matches here. “We saw how the wickets were, watching on television,” said Jayawardena. “We need to look at what kind of wicket we get tomorrow. It looks a fresh wicket, one where the first-round games were played. Depending on how we think the wicket will behave, we need to make a few tactical changes.
“It’s all about the mindset and the hard work the boys have put in. We have been planning for this for three months or so, when we played Pakistan and India in the T20Is and the ODIs. We have got the right combination going and the guys have put their hands up and performed. At the end of the day, that’s what matters in big tournaments. You need to guys to put up their hands and perform. I am proud to lead a team like this. We have a good blend and hopefully we will keep improving.”
Sri Lanka has enjoyed a good run in ICC events in the last several years, but hasn’t gone on to court success since its triumph in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1996. It reached the finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2007 and 2011, as well as the ICC World Twenty20 2009, losing all three matches. “We are two game away from getting to that title,” said Jayawardena. “We are extremely proud to be a part of a group that has been consistent throughout the tournament. When you look back, even though we haven’t won, for us to be in those situations and push hard is great. That’s why we have been very consistent. Yes, we haven’t won any of those and it’s a bit of a disappointment. But if we keep getting there (to the finals), then we will win.”
Pakistan’s spin attack has been particularly impressive for most of the tournament. “We have played each other quite frequently and there have been good contests,” said Jayawardena. “We too have some quality spinners and we play spin quite well as well. We need to make sure that certain things, we execute properly. It’s going to be an exciting semi-final against a quality opposition.”