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September 16, 2002
0951 IST

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Jayasuriya keen to be the straight man

N Ananthanarayanan

After a poor Test tour in England earlier in the year, Sri Lanka skipper Sanath Jayasuriya is honing his batting to improve his overseas record as he faces trips to South Africa and Australia starting next month.

"I faced a few problems playing in England," Jayasuriya said on Sunday before his side's match against the Netherlands in Champions Trophy pool four on Monday.

The 33-year-old batsman, famous for his powerful square drives and flicks over midwicket, wants to get it straight this time.

At the nets, he practised playing straight and then said he was keen to avoid a repeat of his England failure.

Jayasuriya managed just 99 runs from five Test innings as his side lost the three-game series 2-0. He struggled against swing bowling to be bowled, caught behind or trapped lbw on four occasions and run out cheaply in his other innings.

The poor England tour, where Sri Lanka also failed to reach the final of a one-day tri-series won by India, brought him criticism at home and some pressure on his captaincy.

But victory in a recent one-day tournament in Morocco and the good Champions Trophy beginning have silenced detractors.


The explosive left-hander has remained awesome on slow sub-continent pitches, the latest example being his 102 not out which inspired the hosts to thrash Pakistan by eight wickets in the Champions Trophy opener on Thursday.

But Jayasuriya is eyeing battles ahead and wants his players to be ready for bouncier pitches in South Africa and Australia.

A good show in the February-March World Cup in South Africa will also help Sri Lanka to erase memories of their abysmal showing in the 1999 tournament in England.

Jayasuriya exploded on to the international scene in 1996 with his big hitting during the first 15 overs when field restrictions are in place, a huge factor in his side's surprise World Cup win.


He has since grown in stature as a Test player, scoring 340 at home to record the fourth highest Test score, in 1997 against India. In all, he has scored 4,751 runs at a healthy average of 41.72 in his 75 appearances.

But he has found big scores abroad tough to achieve, having scored only two of his 10 centuries away from home.

Both Sri Lankan batsmen and bowlers have begun training on bouncier tracks specially laid out.

Jayasuriya said: "The biggest thing is to practise in different conditions, on pitches with more bounce."

He criticised younger batsmen in the side, such as the talented Mahela Jayawardene and Russel Arnold, for not taking the initiative.

Their inconsistency has won a recall for the 36-year-old Aravinda De Silva, one of the heroes of the 1996 triumph and a destructive batsman in the mid 1990s. He had been ignored in the last two years as selectors opted for fresh blood.

"We need players like Aravinda," said the captain. "Since 1999, youngsters have not performed up to the mark. Only a few have come up."

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