Sri Lanka`s cricket captain Mahela Jayawardene was diplomatic in speaking about the Indian Cricket League, but having weighed the pros and cons of the now banned series, felt that it would be better if the players are given a free hand to play the tournaments, provided it didn`t clash with the international calendar. The national team leaves for South Africa this week for the Twenty-20 World Cup and `The Island` caught up with the Sri Lankan skipper for his views on the tournament and a host of other issues, with the controversial cricket league being high on the agenda.
`It`s a sensitive issue and I don`t want to go into detail. It`s similar to playing county cricket and depending on the amount of cricket you play, players should be allowed to try and show their skills,` Jayawardene told `The Island`.
`But the problem is that the Indian Cricket Board doesn`t identify ICL as a legal entity. If they (SLC) allow us to play that`s great. As cricketers we like to play against other opponents to find out how good we are. But that`s not going to happen now. Maybe some other time, as our main priority is playing for our country,` Jayawardene added.
`Once authorities see the benefits this format has for cricket, they will probably relax some of the regulations. But then, those are all big ifs. If an opportunity comes, it will be a good opportunity, but I am going to be very diplomatic with it,` Jayawardene said.
The Sri Lankan captain`s thoughts come days after Sri Lanka Cricket`s strongly worded statement threatening to ban any player participating in the competition. SLC`s stance has come to much criticism, but on Friday, Chairman of Cricket Selectors backed the new league saying that players should have the freedom to play in the tournament.
`Sunday Island` learns the possibility of playing in the Indian Cricket League was discussed by some of Sri Lanka`s elite players, but the tour of Australia unfortunately ruled on the chances of them being involved in the series.
A tour of Africa after four years
The Sri Lankan side has not toured South Africa since March 2003 World Cup in the African continent and on a personal note, the tour will be crucial to the captain, who has had a torrid World Cup in South Africa four years ago.
`That`s yet another challenge. I love challenges and that`s something I want to rectify. As a team, we wish to do well in South Africa too. Over the years, our record away from home has improved and we intend making rapid progress,` Jayawardene added.
For Sri Lanka like many other teams, the Twenty-20 event is a novel format and they will have to adapt to it as quickly as possible.
`We need to concentrate on our strengths and make slight adjustments while changing the game plan a bit. It`s going to be very quick and fast and furious stuff. It`s easy to panic when things go wrong, but we need to concentrate on what`s in hand,` Jayawardene added.
Although the county professionals are yet to join the national team in preparation for the competition, the Sri Lankans have been hard at practice under the watchful eyes of new coach Trevor Bayliss and his deputy Paul Farbrace.
`The training has been rigorous and we are pushing ourselves. It`s been pre-season for us so the guys have been really working hard to get ready for the long season ahead. Once hard work is done, it`s just a matter of maintaining it in the season. The coaching staff has been brilliant. They work hard and there`s nothing different to Tom and Trevor. The new guys stress on a few areas that we need to improve on as a team and it`s been brilliant,` Jayawardene stressed.
Muralitharan has been ruled out of the tour with a bicep strain and Jayawardene said the spinner could make use of the break to rest ahead of the tougher series against England and Australia. Muralitharan bowled as many as 33 overs on day one in Lancashire`s first class game against Kent at Canterbury before being injured and concerns on the player`s workload surfaced as soon as the injury went public.
`Murali is quite used to bowling a lot of overs. Which is how he gains the rhythm and match fitness. It`s unfortunate how it happened on the last game of the county season, but I feel it`s a blessing in disguise. The guy`s been playing a lot of cricket and it`s good for him to take a break. He`ll be rejuvenated when he comes back with the long season ahead. It will open a door for a new guy. I like to see guys taking opportunities and doing well especially in Twenty-20 cricket, where the wild cards can take the opportunities and come good.`
Sri Lanka leave to South Africa on September 5 and will be based in Johannesburg during the first round games.