Courtesy of the Island at http://www.islandcricket.lk/columnist/trevor_chesterfield
Mahela Jayawardene may have scored a few centuries in his lifetime but the innings of 110 against Kolkata Knight Riders in that maelstrom of frenetic spectator activity, Eden Gardens, has a double message for Ashantha de Mel’s selection coterie.
Dropped, although ‘rested’ seems to be the preferred term these days, for the previous Indian Premier League game for Kings XI Punjab against Bangalore Royal Challengers in Mohali, and with the side moving on to the West Bengali capital, Kolkata, there was the impression Jayawardene had been working on his game plan to sort out a few bugs in the batting technique. It happens when you play too often in this format and where technique needs some adjustment and thinking reappraised.
It is not so much about pitch conditions but fluency and style as well as consistency; even selectors with a modicum of knowledge about the game at this high-pressured level should know this but seemingly all too often ignore the signs. As Sachin Tendulkar has regularly shown for the Mumbai Indians and India for that matter, along with South African Jacques Kallis for the Royal Challengers, there is no substitute at any level of the game for classic skills, class and consistency.
In Jayawardene’s case, his batting CV is full of such milestones but too often these are ignored by whoever is pushing whatever agenda they are pursing in the national side when it comes to batting strategy. Now closing in on 33 years, Jayawardene is at the peak of his batting powers and despite unjust criticisms, anyone with a Test and first-class batting average in the 50s is world-class.
While his ODI average is probably, even by his modest comments, ten less than he would like the current level of 32.47 to be, he still has 12 centuries at limited overs international level, supported by 52 half centuries, and for anyone looking at such statistics would, in all fairness agree they are of a modest nature for a batsman of his class. But when it comes to the shorter format, it is all about where you bat in an innings; this is especially noted in the T20 format.
Jayawardene has long been batting out of his natural place in the order, whether domestically or internationally. He should be entrusted, as has Tendulkar with the opening berth in the 50 overs level or the T20 format where he can use his silky skills to fuller effect than having to bat at four or five. It was noted last year when playing for Wayamba in the Champions League, and also in the domestic provincial T20 that he was poorly used. In the domestic final, he scored match-winning 91.
For the Kings XI on Sunday, pulled as a late replacement due to an injury to Shaun Marsh, he put together an immaculate innings of power, precision, timing and it was cricket, not the slogging you so often see: Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden these days are your typical example of how such quality batsmen in their day in the Test and ODI arena are applying shots that might attract rock ‘n roll mentality environment with foolish experiments such as the mongoose bat that sounds nasty, but is unable to tame the cobra bowling tactics.
In the IPL it is all about consistency, about how players know their game and how to utilise the field as well as the conditions. Opening the batting as he did on Sunday for the Kings XI, minus the team’s personal cheerleader, the often feisty but gracious personality Preity Zinta with her charismatic smile that is not your Bollywood masquerade type features, Jayawardene worked the field as he wanted. He was in a position he is best suited for, where he could test the outfield conditions, and know what areas to hit the ball for maximum effect.
It was not all top-hand or bottom hand but clean hitting, He is a wristy player and was looking at home with what he was doing; no fancy tricks of the scoop shot, or the Marillier paddle, old-fashioned hoik in the direction of ‘cow’s corner’. He doesn’t need to indulge in such nonsense. He is scoring his runs as he best knows how, as do Tendulkar and Kallis.