Sri Lanka’s cricket has gone backwards: Mahela Jayawardene
Mahela Jayawardene. (Getty Image)

Sri Lanka’s dip in form in ODI cricket has Mahela Jayawardene concerned. The former batsman feels their cricket is going backwards, but believes they can still turn things around, provided the players get their act together and move on.

Currently down 0-2 in the five-match ODI series against England, Sri Lanka have lost 32 of their previous 42 ODI games, a stark contrast to the era in which Jayawardene played. One of their biggest disappointments came last month during the Asia Cup, where after taking back-to-back losses at the hands of Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the five-time winners were eliminated. As a result of these losses, Sri Lanka have slipped to No. 8 ODI rankings.

“We are going backwards from where we were and right now we are right at the bottom, which shows in our ranking,” Jayawardene told Sky Sports. “To a certain extent the culture was taken out of the dressing room – [Sri Lanka] introduced too many young guys and as soon as they didn’t perform they were out. Then in, out, in, out.

“We are going backwards from where we were and right now we are right at the bottom, which shows in our ranking,” Jayawardene told Sky Sports. “To a certain extent the culture was taken out of the dressing room – [Sri Lanka] introduced too many young guys and as soon as they didn’t perform they were out. Then in, out, in, out.

“Players were looking over their shoulder thinking: ‘Am I going to get kicked out?’ That’s not a great environment to walk in to. Players then naturally play selfish cricket, not looking at what the team wants and how to win matches. You can’t blame the players for that. Right now it is just a bit chaotic with personnel and things happening. Things have to settle down. They can turn it around.

Just yesterday, batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama had urged the Sri Lankan fans to show patience as the team goes through a transition and tries to regroup to get back to winning ways. The displeasure on the crowd’s part has been evident with people protesting during the Dambulla ODI and pelting empty bottles during the third game in Pallekele. Jayawardene however believes that despite the outburst, the Sri Lankan team continues to have a loyal fan base.

“The Sri Lankan fans will get grumpy but they turn up – they’ll come back and support the team because they are a very loyal fan-base. They are rightly disappointed but they will still back cricket and the Sri Lankan team – cricket is like the heartbeat for this island. It’s part of life. That is why we need to try and sort it out because that’s what people want, and they know that the talent will come through.

The former captain pointed out that Sri Lanka can learn a thing or two from England, who were on a downward spiral three years ago, which resulted in their early exit from the World Cup but have since been dominant in the 50-over format. Having thrashed Australia 5-0 in June, England defeated India 2-1 in the three-match ODI series and are one win away from beating Sri Lanka. While other teams already are already planning their course of action keeping the World Cup in mind, Sri Lanka have plenty of issues to worry about. With about eight months to the World Cup, Jayawardene thinks Sri Lanka can really do with the blueprint set by England.

“[Sri Lanka captain] Dinesh Chandimal has openly said England were in this position a few years ago and turned it around,” Jayawardene said. “That happened over a period of time with proper planning and Trevor Bayliss and Andrew Strauss having a focus on white-ball cricket and allowing some of their players to play in overseas leagues and get exposure.

“They also stuck with a group of players they backed and who they knew would deliver. There were a few changes here and there but the core group remained the same. Those are little things Sri Lanka can look at.”