“We knew that when we went to India, looking at the wickets, that we had to play at a very high tempo, which we discussed with the batters,” Jayawardene said. “It was something that they were not used to, particularly leading up to the World Cup did not allow us to do that – and most of the surfaces that we play in Sri Lanka.
“In domestic cricket we play on pretty slowish wickets so the batters aren’t going to trust their shot selection on good wickets, because they’re not used to that, against high quality bowling.”
Theekshana’s struggles in particular hurt Sri Lanka, however support in terms of other spin options was sorely lacking. Jayawardene once more lay the blame on the pitches being offered domestically, which traditionally are known to suit spin bowling – but crucially does not necessitate the imparting of extra revolutions on the ball, something spinners who were successful at the World Cup, such as Mitchell Santner and Ravindra Jadeja, have been known to do.
“When we play in Sri Lanka, the number of good wickets we play on is very low. So on those wickets it’s not really necessary for our spinners to bowl with any sort of overspin – which is what is needed to succeed on wickets like those in India. That’s where we see a big difference in our spinners.
“We’ve run the numbers in the high performance centre, and at the moment 66% of the deliveries bowled in domestic cricket are by spinners. We even saw a match last week where the whole innings was bowled by spinners. These the major problems we have to address.”
“If you take someone like Rangana Herath, he played years in England, so he had that skill. What we need to see is how we get our spinners to acquire those skills. At the moment, if you even take a player from the Under-19s they will first play in domestic cricket. But to get them to the right level, we need them to play on good wickets.
“We’ve run the numbers in the high performance centre, and at the moment 66% of the deliveries bowled in domestic cricket are by spinners. We even saw a match last week where the whole innings was bowled by spinners. These the major problems we have to address. It’s only if we fix these problems that we can take Sri Lankan cricket to where it needs to be even in the next 10 years.”
Jayawardene was speaking during an hour and thirty-minute long post-mortem, during which Sri Lanka’s returning players and staff were grilled by the country’s media on topics ranging from team changes and decisions made at the toss to more wide-spanning inquests regarding Sri Lanka’s standing in the broader cricketing landscape and the way forward for a side seemingly lacking in direction.
The entire World Cup squad was present at the briefing, with only Angelo Mathews absent, while head coach Chris Silverwood and Jayawardene represented the coaching staff. It was Jayawardene though that took the lead in navigating a sometimes hostile press. He urged critics to show “trust and be patient” in a “skilful group”.
“It’s a process that we have to trust and be patient with. This is a skilful group,” Jayawardene said. “The expectations I understand. I think the fans, they all know that when we go for a World Cup, we’re going to do well, perform well. But that expectation has to be realistic, along with the plans.
“People jumping and shouting and screaming have to realise what one-day cricket is, and how we’re going to compete going forward. The plans are being set, we just need to be patient and work harder in areas where we need to improve.”
More immediately however, Jayawardene drew attention to the team’s fielding and fitness levels. Sri Lanka were the worst fielding side in the tournament in terms of the percentage of catches dropped, while in terms of fitness – aside from injuries to Dasun Shanaka, Matheesha Pathirana and Lahiru Kumara – Jayawardene said that fatigue played a role in some of the poor performances towards the end of the tournament.
“We dropped 16 catches which is the highest in the competition. When you’re going with a depleted bowling unit you can’t afford such mistakes. They work really hard in their fielding practices, but on the field the anticipation and execution we do lack. That comes with experience.
“But for me the biggest thing is the fitness. What I noticed over the course of the tournament, because of our fitness levels the fatigue got to us as the tournament progressed, and because of that our performances died down. From the first game to the last game, we saw guys making a lot more mistakes. That happens with mental and physical fatigue. The execution and concentration lapse is because of that.”
“There’s a big difference between how T20 cricket and one-day cricket is played. We need to see how we can fit in more one-day games in to the next FTP. We also need to increase the number of one-day games being played domestically.”
Looking ahead, the path forward is not without substantial obstacles. Much like the World Cup cycle that preceded it, the one leading up to the 2027 tournament will have two T20 World Cups in between. Further, with Sri Lanka having failed to qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy, they will have considerably less ODI cricket under their belt heading into the next ODI World Cup – which could potentially leave the ODI side undercooked once more in four years time.
“There’s a big difference between how T20 cricket and one-day cricket is played,” Jayawardene said. “We need to see how we can fit in more one-day games in to the next FTP [future tours programme]. We also need to increase the number of one-day games being played domestically.
“Once we have a debrief of this World Cup, we will start planning for the next year and the two years after that and so on, and see what the best plan is moving forward. During this planning we must not only look at the T20 and one-day sides, but also the Test side – who were very close last time around of qualifying for the World Test Championship final.”
Despite the team’s poor recent results, Jayawardene was eager to stress patience with the current set of players, highlighting the primarily the need to create an identifiable culture within the team.
“We’ve come this way with the talent of our players, the issue is the consistency of them utilising that talent. The players know this as well. They all have a responsibility to build a culture within the team. Each player has that responsibility.
“They have to do it on their own though, it’s not someone can just come and instil. The biggest challenge is building that culture along while winning. My biggest belief is that culture precedes strategy. If that culture is there then the team strategy will be easy to execute. If we can do that then this team will go a long way.”
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