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Captain or not, Mahela leads with his batting

Every time Prasanna Jayawardene played a rash shot, Mahela Jayawardene would walk to the middle of the pitch probably explaining to the wicketkeeper batsman the importance of his wicket as Sri Lanka looked to bat India out of the first Test in Ahmedabad, reports Abhijeet Kulkarni.

cricket Updated: Nov 18, 2009 23:53 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

Every time Prasanna Jayawardene played a rash shot, Mahela Jayawardene would walk to the middle of the pitch probably explaining to the wicketkeeper batsman the importance of his wicket as Sri Lanka looked to bat India out of the first Test in Ahmedabad.

The 33-year-old may have relinquished captaincy to concentrate on his batting, but the leader in him has been working overtime to communicate with inexperienced teammates to get the best out of them on tour.

On Wednesday, the former skipper did just that as he built valuable partnerships — first with Thilan Samaraweera (138 runs) for the fourth wicket and then with Prasanna (unbeaten 216) — to give Sri Lanka a sniff at victory.

He had played second fiddle to Samaraweera in the final session on Tuesday, opting to curb his flair and dropped anchor to ensure that India did not get back in the game after Tillakaratne Dilshan and skipper Kumar Sangakkara were dismissed in quick succession.

This morning he opened up after seeing off the second new ball. But with the visitors losing Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews just before lunch, the onus once again fell on Sri Lanka's record holder for the highest individual total to guide the lower order.

And he did that with authority, reaching his sixth double century and second against India, in 320 balls and setting up the platform to go for the kill on Thursday.

Considering the important role Jayawardene, who led the islanders to the 2007 World Cup final, still plays in the team many are still surprised with his decision to step down from captaincy.

But the Kings XI Punjab player insists that the decision was purely based on his hunger to improve as a batsman.

“The decision was purely because all the decisions I have made are done for a positive reason. I wanted to be a better batsman than what I was in the last ten years and I think I am doing that in all forms of cricket,” said the 33-year-old, who averaged 66.93 in the 28 Tests as captain.

Jayawardene, who won 15 of the 28 matches as captain, feels nothing has changed for him despite stepping down. “

Even before I was the captain I used to contribute with ideas. Even now I am contributing by giving ideas to bowlers.”

That was evident during the team's stay in Mumbai. With the tour game against Board President XI washed out, Jayawardene spent a lot of time with Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath at the indoor nets, telling them how to bowl in Indian conditions.

Mendis was not picked for this Test but if Herath manages to implement some of Jayawardene's tips, the Indians could be in for more trouble.