Hambantota, Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardena said that the fact that his team is going into the five-match One-Day International series after a full series against Pakistan, and that India are approaching the same showdown with a break of a month-and-a-half, could be a double-edged sword.
"It works in two ways," said Jayawardena. "One would be that, yes we have had the match practice and the guys are in pretty good form, we will try and continue that. For the Indians, it's a different story, they have to get back to a rhythm. On the other hand, they are fresher than us after us going through six months of continuous cricket. Our challenge would be to try and beat them on the field with the energy. If we can do that, we can probably win 25 percent of the battle."
Sri Lanka split the Twenty20 International series against Pakistan 1-1, won the ODI series 3-1 and took the Test series 1-0, results that Jayawardena hopes to build on over the next two-and-a-half weeks. "I am quite happy with the way we finished off the Pakistan series. But we are playing a different opponent. We need to make sure we keep continuing to put in the hard work of the last 12 months," said Jayawardena. "The younger guys have put their hand up, they have identified their roles, they're comfortable with what they are doing. We encourage them to do the same and the rest of the guys try and execute the game plan as we come up with it."
While Sri Lanka have played at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium before, Saturday will mark India's debut at the ground. "India are an experienced team, they will try to adapt to the conditions quickly but we must see how we can play to our best," said Jayawardena. "The last two games at this ground were two T20 games (against Pakistan) and the pitches played quite different to what we had encountered in the World Cup, where it was true."
"This pitch looks similar to the ones against Pakistan, but those games started late and lasted three hours. This is going to be much longer. We need to make sure we have a good idea what a good competitive score is going to be and try and execute a good game plan."
Jayawardena was asked about the challenges of keeping his team focussed during the Pakistan series even as the issues of central contracts and non-payment of fees by Sri Lanka Cricket raged. "We perform much better in those situations, I guess," replied Jayawardene. "I don't think it affects us that much on the field. This not the first time we have gone through it, even in the past we had similar situations. But we try to keep the two entities separate. We try and work on our contracts separately and try and focus on the on-field stuff separately."
"It isn't the ideal situation to be in but in the Pakistan series, our focus on the cricket was pretty good. It was a tough series for us but we went out and did the work, came back and sorted out our problem separately."
"I don't know how it works, but I remember Trevor Bayliss (the former coach) telling me once that if we are put in a situation where everything runs smooth, we might not perform because we are not used to that."