Mahela Jayawardene has said Sri Lanka's poor starts and inconsistent middle order were the reasons his side were beaten in two successive one-day series. "When things like that happen the negativity creeps in, you are not sure whether it is going to happen or not," Jayawardene said. "These guys have been pretty good for us in the last couple of years but all of a sudden when three or four guys don't get the runs which they usually get that created a bit of an issue."
Sri Lanka lost 3-2 to England at home in October and then failed to make it to the CB Series final last month. "The whole group apart from Sanga [Kumar Sangakkara] was not consistent enough to put pressure on the opposition. We let ourselves down in our batting. The wickets were really good and when you have that kind of wickets it is important that we bat well."
Preparation, Jayawardene said, was not a problem. "At practices they worked really hard and went through everything but they couldn't spend enough time out there in the middle. You need to spend time in the middle to get more confidence and to build the innings through partnerships. That's what we didn't do."
Upul Tharanga's poor form concerned Jayawardene as Sri Lanka were forced to try out Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dilruwan Perera as opening partners to Sanath Jayasuriya. "For the talent he possesses Upul is a much better player than what he has shown. He just needs to find that bit of confidence," Jayawardene said. "What he has to realise is that he cannot be Sanath. Sanath is a totally different and a naturally gifted player." From the start of 2007, Tharanga has played 30 ODIs, averaged 23.14 and got only four half-centuries. Malinda Warnapura was picked over Tharanga in Sri Lanka's Test squad for the West Indies tour this month. "We've got to make sure that while Sanath is around we fill the other position of opener who can take us through for the next 10 years," Jayawardene said.
Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu's departure will leave a big hole in the side and Jayawardene said it was important to find adequate replacements. "Unfortunately the players we've brought in and tried out haven't been that consistent. You just need to have faith in your ability. That's what we've been talking to the guys. We need to give these guys the confidence to do that because we know this is a talented group of players we have to work with."
Jayawardene was happy with the young bowlers who had come in to the side recently. Ishara [Amarasinghe], [Farveez] Maharoof [before he got injured] and Lasith [Malinga] were very consistent backing up Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan. We have Dilhara [Fernando] who is not far away from returning from injury. We have a very healthy bowling line-up but what we've got to make sure is that we get our batting right and be more consistent."
To build a team for the 2011 World Cup, in the subcontinent, Jayawardene said, 15 to 20 players had to picked and rotated though all the tournaments. "If you are going to bring in youngsters they should have played at least about 40 to 50 ODIs before the World Cup. We need to get the guys who we think are going to be in the set up for that period get into form and work with them. There are a few guys performing in domestic cricket. We love to give them a few opportunities and see whether they can fit into the combination."Mahela Jayawardene