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Jayasuriya given ultimatum

Country’s national selectors have given 40-year-old veteran Sanath Jayasuriya an ultimatum and have told him that he would not be considered any more as an opener and will be required to bat in the middle order and play the role of an all-rounder. With the World Cup less than two years away, the selectors are looking for an opening combination that will provide them with starts consistently and while Tillekeratne Dilshan has been recognized as the number one opener, left-hander Upul Tharanga fits in as the other opener.

Jayasuriya will play as an all-rounder, which will require him to bowl his left arm spin consistently, a combination that earned the former captain a position in the side when he first made the side two decades ago.

Jayasuriya has been the first name slotted into Sri Lanka’s ODI unit ever since his explosive batting in the 1996 World Cup, but the emergence of other batsmen and Jayasuriya’s age coupled with a few low scores in recent times, have put him out of contention.

"We had a long discussion about Sanath and we want to play him as an all-rounder. His left-arm spin in sub-continent conditions may become useful. With the Batting Power Plays on, having the services of a spinning all-rounder is useful and based on the conditions, we’ll consider his role. However, whether Sanath will play or not will depend on the conditions," Ashantha de Mel, the Chairman of Cricket Selectors told a media briefing at Sri Lanka Cricket headquarters yesterday.

Captain Kumar Sangakkara stressed that Jayasuriya could still be useful, but warned that the emergence of other spinning all-rounders in the domestic circuit has increased competition. "Our two main spinners are Murali and Ajantha Mendis. If they aren’t bowling well, we can bring in a spinning all-rounder. Sanath’s role is important to us, but there are other spinning all-rounders who are pushing for places."

Jayasuriya, who retired from Test cricket in 2007, has expressed his desire to play till the next World Cup, but now, all that depends on the requirements of the team and his performance.

Sangakkkara, who was angered by the poor fielding standards during the recently concluded Champions Trophy tournament in South Africa, said that the fielding sessions the team had with New South Wales fielding coach Gavin Fingleson came in handy.

"He didn’t’ try to change things wholesale. He showed us little things whereby we can improve a few things technically. He did a few useful drills to show how we can get that extra second in going for a catch."

De Mel, who has in previous instances accused the national team of neglecting fielding drills once again, stressed the need to put up disciplined efforts on the field. "In One-Day games, most of the time, you see 20-25 runs making a huge difference. If you can cut down that and improve the running between the wickets, that can make a huge difference."

Questions were also asked about the inclusion of fast bowler Dilhara Fernando, whose overstepping problems resulting in no balls and free hits has hurt the Sri Lankans on a numerous instances. But as three of his predecessors – Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene – have done time and again, Sangakkara backed the under-fire bowler. "Dilhara has worked hard and in the last eight or nine domestic games hasn’t conceded a single no-ball."

Sangakkara also welcomed the move to appoint Stuart Law as the successor to Paul Farbrace. "He had an excellent career with Australia and Queensland and then at Lancashire, where he was the captain. I think when Steve Waugh retired he said that he was lucky to play more than Darren Lehman and Stuart Law. His recent playing experiences will be certainly useful for us."

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