It's been a while since Mahela Jayawardene relinquished the Sri Lanka captaincy. But his penchant for shouldering responsibility is slowly bringing results for Kochi.
Attribute that to Jayawardene's ability to pick horses for courses. Even if that means leaving out local icon like Sreesanth or a VVS Laxman. Against Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday, a dry and slow Eden Gardens pitch quickly prompted Jayawardene to go for Muttiah Muralitharan, who had not played their last two matches, instead of fast bowling all-rounder Thisara Perera.
"We will be going with different combinations according to circumstances. Once a decision is made, we will back ourselves till the end. There is no depth of quality in the squad and it's a good headache to have," Jayawardene had said after their emphatic win against the Super Kings on Monday.
At the onset of this season, Jayawardene was given a team that could have been described as one with a lot of baggage. Ravindra Jadeja, given the cold shoulder by the IPL and then the BCCI, was making a comeback. RP Singh was out of favour too and Vinay Kumar, among the top wicket-takers in Ranji Trophy for some years, is yet to cement a place in the India ODI team. Sreesanth's antics have been a constant worry and Brad Hodge, the highest run-scorer in T20s, last played international cricket almost three years ago. Brendon McCullum's temperament, too, is questionable despite the propulsion he provides.
But Jayawardene seems to thrive under trying circumstances. He asked his players to "put up their hands" and set an example by being the first to do so. Opening the batting with McCullum was an assuring move where the Kiwi "has his freedom" while Jayawardene calmly goes about accumulating runs.
"Brendon is a match-winner and we enjoy batting together. We complement each other and that helps a lot," said Jayawardene.
McCullum's consistent run could be also attributed to Jayawardene's "conscious decision" to make Parthiv Patel keep wickets. In the process, Kochi have a more relaxed McCullum on the field and an attacking batsman added to the roster.
Hodge and Jadeja are the perfect duo to follow - the former having the ability to anchor the innings while the latter can blast his way through. Jadeja's economical bowling is a dividend and justifies his $950,000 (R 4.19 crore) price tag even more.
All this, however, seem to work only when the Tuskers chase.