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Jerome Jayaratne

Interim head coach Jerome Jayaratne has described the fielding standards of the Sri Lanka cricket team as “the worst in Asia”.

“We are now the worst fielding side in Asia, we were never behind Pakistan but now we have gone behind them. India proved that they were better than us and even Bangladesh are fielding better than us,” Jayaratne told The Nation.

“Other than the bowling which is holding the team together the batting, fielding and fitness has let us down. It’s a lot to do with the fitness levels,” he said.

The three key areas which have contributed towards the team’s recent defeats Jayaratne hopes to address ahead of the upcoming series against West Indies which commences next month.

Jayaratne is confident these areas can be fixed with the help of the new trainer from England Michael Main hired for two years by Sri Lanka Cricket three months ago, but whether it can be done ahead of the West Indies series he was not sure.

“Michael gave us a mind blowing presentation and showed where we are and where we need to get to. The way our guys are fielding they are carrying excess weight and we are in shambles,” said Jayaratne.

“What he tried to do in the first three months is he didn’t try to be a ‘Hitler’ and try to turn things around but observed everything. Now he has decided how he is going to take this forward and at the presentation he was given a full green light to go ahead in whatever he wants to do,” explained Jayaratne.

“I have a very strong belief if we give Michael about 4-6 months he can turn things around. He has got the players to sign documents like signing a contract that they need to reach desired targets in particular time duration otherwise they are going to be in trouble.

“He has assessed them and given them time targets some they cannot do before the West Indies series, but definitely you can see the boys are working towards that. Everybody’s got individual programs and targets and they have taken it seriously.”
“Batting there are major issues and we have a problem,” said Jayaratne. “Bowling also although it has held the team together the pacies needed a lot of assistance because we leaked a lot of runs in the spin area.”

He pointed out that one of the reasons for Sri Lanka’s key spinner Rangana Herath proving to be ineffective against Pakistan was due to his spin partner Tharindu Kaushal leaking a lot of runs from the other end.

“Bowling like batting happens in partnerships you can’t have high intensity bowling from one end and leak runs from the other, that’s what happened to Rangana Herath,” said Jayaratne. “Tharindu was bowling badly and he couldn’t hold it together because the pressure was reverse. You lose momentum and the game drifts away from you.”

Jayaratne said that from a captain’s and head coach’s point of view line and length was critical. “There are other disciplines as well and if those disciplines are not met it’s very difficult for a person to captain the side and take it forward.”

“If you take away (Amit) Mishra’s and (Ravichandran) Ashwin’s fifties at the SSC we wouldn’t have lost that match. Bowlers’ accuracy levels play a major part during this time when partnerships start developing. You need to control the damage by reducing our mistakes,” said Jayaratne.

Explaining further Jayaratne said, “You need to get 20 wickets in a match and if you select four bowlers they need to have the potential to get 4-5 wickets in an innings or 8-10 wickets in a match. If he is not developed to that potential you’ll never get the 20 wickets. You need to up the skills.”

This will be the first occasion where Jayaratne will be handling the senior national team as coach although he has quite a lot of experience of being head coach of Academy teams that had made tours to Bangladesh and Chennai and working alongside every overseas coach assigned to the national team since 2000.

Jayaratne, a former Sri Lanka under-19 and S Thomas’ College (ML) cricketer was manager coaching for about 2-3 years and when Owen Mottau left he took over the Academy as head coach until 2008 when he was elevated as Sri Lanka Cricket Head Coach by former captain Arjuna Ranatunga when he was interim committee chairman.

Jayaratne 49, admitted that his initial reaction was that of surprise when he was asked by SLC interim committee chairman Sidath Wettimuny to take over position as interim head coach of the national team.

“I was asked to stand in as stop gap coach for an interim period until they found a coach from overseas. I wouldn’t have said yes if I wasn’t up to it,” said Jayaratne.

At the time he received the appointment the players and the support staff had been given a break from cricket. Jayaratne is expected to meet them physically on Monday (September 21) when they start their training in preparation for the West Indies series.