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Mirpur: Mar 7, 2014
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews on Friday threw his weight behind an out-of-form Mahela Jayawardene and expressed confidence that the veteran batsman would deliver the goods in the Asia Cup 2014 summit showdown against Pakistan on Saturday.
“I am confident he will come out on Saturday and take the Pakistani attack apart. I wish him all the best. I’m sure he’ll deliver for us,” Mathews told reporters at the pre-match press conference.
Coming back from a finger injury, the former Lankan captain has managed just 36 runs from four outings.
“We know he’s a world class player. I believe he’s a big- match player,” Mathews said at the team hotel as the islanders took a day’s rest, having played their last league match against Bangladesh.
Mathews further pointed out that Lasith Malinga, who had bagged a five-for against Pakistan in the tournament opener, would bring in the X-factor when he returns to the side after being given rest in the dead rubber.
Terming Malinga a transformed bowler, Mathews said: “All the hard work that he has put in makes him a different bowler in the recent past. He’s working really hard in the gym, on his fitness, his fielding as well as batting. He’s been our premier bowler for so many years. We just want him to continue doing the same things.”
“He’s an exception in world cricket. He’s been performing consistently because he’s working hard. He wants to get things right when he walks into the game,” Mathews added.
With Malinga set to return, there could be a selection dilemma, but Mathews said it’s a healthy problem to have.
“I think when Lasith comes in, the selection will be very hard. All bowlers and batters are doing very well. In fact that’s a good problem to have as a selector and as captain.
You want to have a good competition within the team. It’s a good problem to have. we will face a tough challenge.”
The Sri Lankan’s might have sailed into the final with four wins from as many matches, but Mathews was guarded.
“It is very challenging because none of the games were easy for us. We had to fight very hard to get into the final.
It’s going to be a fresh match. We have to start from the beginning and play positive cricket.”
“No I don’t think so [it will make any difference]. We beat Pakistan when the likes of Afridi and Gul all played. We are not any individuals. We are worried about what we want to do and how we’ll go about ourselves. We are not looking at any individual.”
“Pakistani team is balanced and very strong. They have got good batters, bowlers and a very good fielding unit.”
Mathews also said that off-spinners Ajantha Mendis and Saeed Ajmal could play crucial roles for Sri Lanka and Paksitan respectively.
“They are two different types of spinners who have their own strengths. But both are quite similar when it comes to their strengths. They have got a few variations, unlike other bowlers. They have got three four different types of balls and they are very good at it and also their accuracy,” he said.
Mendis, with nine wickets from three matches, is leading the tally of the best bowlers while 36-year-old Pakistani Ajmal is not behind with eight wickets from three matches as both have contributed to their respective team’s success.
Both are also going neck and neck when it comes to economy rate — Mendis has conceded at 4.84 runs per over, while Ajmal is a bit tidy with 4.51 but the former has a better strike rate of 17.3 compared to the Pakistani’s 29.2.
“They are two different bowlers, Ajmal is quite good and also Ajmal has bowled brilliantly in the recent past. They will play vital roles. Both of them if they play well, they will be a huge factor for both the teams. The key is to play positive cricket.”
On his own role, Mathews said he’s happy to play the finisher’s role at No 6.
“I don’t have any doubts in my batting order. My role changes according to the situation of the game. If you need quick runs, my role changes. It’s more or less playing according to the situation.
“I’ve been batting at No 6. and that won’t change. My team needs me there and I’m willing to do anything for my team. I just want to continue what I’m doing,” said the Lankan skipper.
Unlike the Pakistanis who have injury issues to four of their players, including Shahid Afridi, the Lankans will have a full strength squad at their disposal.
“Well, our squad is in full strength. We don’t have any injury concern. When it comes to the World T20 it’s a completely different format. It will give us a really good boost if we win our game tomorrow. Overall it’s a different format and we’ll have to start afresh and positive way.”
Mathews refused to comment on the fresh contract stand-off between the Lankan players and their Board.
“At this situation, I can’t really comment on that.”
Sri Lanka’s national cricketers and their Board have been at loggerheads over player income for the third year running, with the players steadfast in their rejection of the new annual contracts, a week after their previous agreements had expired.
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