Mahela Jayawardene has urged the Sri Lankan selectors to make him open in one-day cricket ahead of the upcoming 2015 ICC World Cup, adding that he has been pushing for a promotion up the order ever since the 2011 World Cup.
"The only thing I haven't done is gone down on my knees to the selectors and asked for me to be allowed to open," Jayawardene said in an exclusive interview to ESPNcricinfo ahead of the 4th ODI between India and Sri Lanka in Kolkata.
"I have felt that's the position I should bat leading up to this World Cup. The selectors obviously have a different theory. Because the middle order isn't experienced, they wanted me to be there. But every time I have opened the batting, I have played my best cricket, been consistent and controlled the game. So we'll see. We still have three to four months before the World Cup."
Although the sample size is fairly small, Jayawardene’s plea is valid considering he averages 44.76 at a strike-rate over 90 while opening the batting in ODI cricket. In contrast, he averages approximately 32 when batting anywhere lower down the order.
"Every time an opener gets sick or has an injury, I am the first one to put my hand up and that's how I got my opportunities," he said. "In T20 cricket I've opened and that frees me up quite a bit and gives me that opportunity to start well and control the innings."
Jayawardene scored a dazzling century in the 3rd ODI to lift Sri Lanka to 242 from their 50 overs, but it wasn’t enough as India cruised to a 6-wicket win and took an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the series. While the 37-year old’s own form with the bat would’ve pleased him no end, he did concede disappointment at his team’s failures.
"We've been very consistent home and away this year but unfortunately we didn't hit the stride as soon as we came here," he said. "But you always try to look at things in a positive way. We were able to try a few options before the World Cup and give a few guys opportunities and see if they are up for the big occasion. I think all in all even though it's a disappointing tour, we've learnt quite a bit."
However, Jayawardene has little worry about this series defeat having an adverse effect on their World Cup campaign, given their illustrious record in ICC tournaments over the last decade or so. Especially with the World Cup being held in Australia & New Zealand (NZ), Jayawardene is expecting a far better performance than what they have given in India as they will be playing 7 ODIs and 2 Tests in NZ in the lead-up to the quadrennial event.
"We will be based in New Zealand and our preparation is going to be good. We have two Test matches and seven one-dayers against New Zealand before the World Cup," he said. "Adapting to surfaces in Australia and New Zealand is going to be quite different. One hurdle at a time, get through that and then from the quarterfinals, it's on the day, how you keep your head, keep calm and execute."
Finally, with Jayawardene already having retired from the longest format and following suit in ODIs after the World Cup, there has been concern among the well wishers of Sri Lankan cricket about its future. The former Sri Lankan captain, though, is absolutely certain that Sri Lankan cricket is in safe hands with Angelo Mathews as skipper.
"He (Mathews) handles pressure really well as a batsman, and once you do that captaining the side becomes fairly natural as long as you are calm and collected," Jayawardene added. "He had a fantastic year with the bat last year and as a captain as well, winning in England for the first time. He's come a long way, we are happy that he's settled now and by the time we leave, the team is in good hands."