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ICC MUST regulate international cricket schedules - says Mahela Jayawardene

CRICKET: Sri Lanka cricket captain Mahela Jayawardena warned that the cream of cricket which is the Test form and 50-over game could be engulfed by the advent of Twenty20 cricket that is seriously threatening to undermine the two pivotal forms of the game sacred to its reputation, unless the ICC stepped into the picture and regulate the newest version on its annual international schedules.

"What I mean is the ICC (International Cricket Council) must strike a balance between all forms of cricket", Mahela Jayawardena told'Sunday Observer' during a brief interview. He added: "I think, right now, that is the way forward for cricket in general.

"What happens now is that there are Twenty20 tournaments springing up everywhere and therefore it becomes more of a circus if I may put it in that sense. It has also led to the current impasse that has occurred in our cricket. I feel that all these issues could be sorted out, if the ICC and the cricket boards of the countries can come to an understanding and sort things out for the satisfaction of all concerned."

Not healthy

Jayawardena noted that as a result of Twenty20 cricket taking precedence over Test and ODI cricket all international players have been sandwitched in between and that it will not augur well for both players and the basic structure of cricket. "I think this is not a very healthy sign at all", he said. "It is very difficult to hold four different Twenty20 tournaments per year and players being dragged from one tournament to another.

"Why I say this is not a ideal situation, is because once players get pushed about, the player then will start to make decisions on their own, like what has happened now," Skipper Jayawardena stated, referring to the ongoing dispute between a key group of national players and the Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket's Interim Committee Arjuna Ranatunga. The second edition of the Indian premier League (IPL) has been announced before the dates of the proposed tour of England were finalised. Both engagements were fixed for 2009.

Asked to comment on the current stance of the group of players led by him, who are involved in an impasse with the SLC over the intended tour of England next year in April-May, Mahela evaded the question, saying the media should clarify any development with the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Cricketers Association Graeme Labrooy.

Not powerful

Jayawardena urged the powers that be in world cricket to seriously consider having one solid window for all players to compete in one big Twenty20 tournament. If that is done, many thorny issues which have cropped up of late, concerning two of the Asian nations Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for example, could have been sorted out. The Sri Lanka skipper said that he is not in a very powerful position in the I.C.C. or Sri Lanka Cricket to give a ruling on this issue.

"All I can do is to give my views with regard to this issue when I am quizzed and if the authorities can act on it, I think it will make a difference in the long run", Jayawardena said. Commenting on the current 'break' enjoyed from international cricket by his team, since the end of the home Test and ODI series against India, Mahela Jayawardena said that the postponement of the ICC champions Trophy (Mini World Cup) in Pakistan was a blessing in disguise as the Sri Lanka players needed a 'break' as they needed a rest period as they had been playing continuously for eight months. A rest was necessary so that they would be able to recharge their batteries before the start of a new season", Mahela said.

The Sri Lankan skipper said that "Some players like Sangakkara who has gone to Australia for a surgery and has come back, but is preparing to fly again to Australia for further treatment.

"I also have had a knee injury, a niggling one and I too need some respite and then there were guys like Maharoof, who I think has recovered by now".

Jayawardene said on the domestic circuit most of his players have been playing Division 1 cricket, besides provincial cricket as well which goes to show that the cricketers have been involved with cricket right along in some way or the other whilst taking a deserved break from the international arena.

ICC in charge

Airing his views on Sri Lanka's inability to have more Test cricket against top ICC ranked nations like Australia and South Africa, Jayawardena diplomatically pointed to the ICC's Future Tours Programme (FTP) and emphasised that his team had no other alternative but to abide by the schedule mapped out by the world controlling body.

He said that he would like to stick to the FTP and play against whoever the opposition may be without grumbling on it, saying that his side was not getting much exposure unlike some of their counterparts.

Commenting on the upcoming Canada Cup Twenty20 extravaganza in Toronto, Canada, the Sri Lanka skipper Jayawardena said that it was a good chance for his team to stake a claim for the title alongside Pakistan, Zimbabwe and host nation Canada respectively.

The tournament is slated to be held from October 10-13 at Maple Leaf ground in Toronto. Jayawardena was also pleased with the squad chosen for the short series in Canada, saying a lot of deserving players had got a 'break' and that with the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe, the action in Toronto could stand in good stead for his players.

Healthy rivalry

"There is healthy rivalry between youngsters and seniors alike, he said, talking of the squad chosen for the Canada event.

The Sri Lanka captain was philosophical when asked for his views on the team being pitted against bottom-ranked ICC Test nations like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe more often than not, Jayawardena observed that before Sri Lanka received ICC Test status, Sri Lanka too, had played rookie teams regularly. It was unfair to look down on such countries now", he said.

The Sri Lanka skipper also spoke of the decision to hand over half of the contract to injury plagued 'slinger' fast bowler Lasith Malinga and said that as members of the Sri Lanka Cricketers Association, its duty was to look into the interests of players and the express pacer was no exception, considering the service rendered to the country thus far.

However, he confirmed that the fast bowler would naturally have fight on his hands to regain his place in the side, since the advent of novice pacers like Nuwan Kulasekera, Thilan Thushara Mirando, Dhammika Prasad and the more experienced Chaminda Vaas.

Sri Lanka squad for Canada Cup Twenty20 subject to ratification by the Sports Minister: Mahela Jayawardena (Capt), Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Udawatte, Chamara Kapugedera, Jehan Mubarak, Thillekerathne Dilshan (WK), Jeewantha Kulathunga, Farveez Maharoof, Nuwan Kulasekera, Thilan Thushara Mirando, Ajantha Mendis, Thilina Kandamby, Dilhara Fernando, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Kaushalya Weeraratne.

Schedule: October 10 - Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka, Pakistan vs Canada. October 11 - Pakistan vs Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka vs Canada. October 12 - Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe vs Canada. October 13 Play off match for 3rd place and Final.

 

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