Sri Lanka stand-in skipper Thilina Kandamby insisted he had no problems with Sanath Jayasuriya’s brief return to international cricket after the veteran took two wickets in the Twenty20 victory against England.
Although best known as a dynamic batsman, – Jayasuriya is widely credited with revolutionising the opener’s role during Sri Lanka’s march to the 50-over World Cup title in 1996 – it was as a bowler he caused World Twenty20 champions England most problems in the tourists’ nine-wicket win on Saturday.
Jayasuriya, playing his first international match since a one-dayer against India in Delhi in December 2009, took two for 18 in three overs with his under-rated left-arm spin, including clean bowling Kevin Pietersen for 41.
However, the presence of Jayasuriya, who turns 42 on Thursday, in the side after a gap of nearly two years has raised eyebrows.
He is only due to play two international matches on tour, the Twenty20 and the first of five one-dayers against England at The Oval on Tuesday before finally retiring from Sri Lanka duty.
Jayasuriya, now an MP in the United People’s Freedom Alliance party of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse, has reportedly been selected as a result of political pressure to ensure he receives a ‘fitting’ send-off to an international career that started 22 years ago.
But Kandamby, leading Sri Lanka in Bristol after regular captain Tillakaratne Dilshan remained sidelined with a broken thumb, insisted he was glad to have Jayasuriya, a veteran of 444 one-day internationals, in the team.
“He has a ton of experience, so it’s always good to have him in the side,” said Kandamby after Sri Lanka cruised to victory against England with 16 balls to spare in the lone Twenty20 match of their tour.
“You can go and talk to him and he’s still fit enough to play. Today (Saturday), a few overs, a couple of wickets, he’s a very useful cricketer.”
And Kandamby rejected suggestions that it was disruptive of Jayasuriya, who retired from Tests in 2007, to play just the two limited overs matches in England before bowing out.
“That’s his own decision,” said the 29-year-old Kandamby. “He has played for 20-odd years and he thought ‘that’s it’.”
Kandamby’s first taste of international captaincy could hardly have gone better from the moment he won the toss and chose to field.
He then saw Sri Lanka hold England to a meagre 136 for nine, with fast bowler Lasith Malinga taking two for 15 in his maximum permitted four overs.
Kandamby was then able to put his feet up as Mahela Jayawardene, man-of-the-match for his typically stylish 72 not out, and Kumar Sangakkara (43 not out) shared an unbroken partnership of 97 for the second wicket.
“Today it was really fun because everything was going our way,” said Kandamby, who will lead Sri Lanka at The Oval if Dilshan is still unfit.
“When you have Lasith it’s very easy to handle another side because Lasith is a world-class bowler,” Kandamby said.
Turning to Jayawardene, he added: “Whenever he plays positively, he’s top of the world, Today he was tremendous.”
Saturday’s match was Stuart Broad’s first as England’s Twenty20 captain and Kandamby sympathised with his opposing skipper’s predicament in the field.
“There’s nothing much you can do when Mahela and Sanga going well because they are world-class players,” he said.
Broad, earmarked to lead England in the defence of their World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka next year, was run out for nought and then saw his three wicketless overs cost 29 runs.
“Credit where credit is due, I thought Sri Lanka played very well,” Broad said. “Jayawardene and Sangakkara showed their experience and you have to say Malinga is one of the best in the world.”