Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ajantha was the wrong choice | Column by Sanath Jayasuriya



We’ve the allround skills to beat Hyderabad

ON Thursday night, the Mumbai Indians celebrated Sachin’s 36th birthday with a small party. His birthday is now part of our IPL social calendar, but the main difference from last year was the fact that Sachin is fully fit this year and leading from the front.

That’s made us a far stronger team. We missed Sachin last year in the first half of the competition and only really started winning properly once he returned. It was no coincidence. His value as our premier batsman and our leader is immense. Everything is built around him.

He is now 36, but that is not too old when you are as fit as he is. He is far from finished and I see no reason why he could not play another World Cup in 2011. He is batting brilliantly, as he showed in our opening game with a masterful little innings, and has plenty more runs in the tank. I enjoy playing with him because his cool and calm manner ensures a relaxed and laid-back team.

He has seen everything in cricket during the last two decades and there is never even a whiff of panic. His teammates feed off that. You need to be relaxed to play your best cricket.

I hope we can now give him a proper birthday treat with a strong performance against Team Hyderabad on Saturday night. It’s been a slow tournament for us after the first clash with Chennai and the wash-out against Team Jaipur, so we are eager to get back on the park. It’s obviously an important game for us. Team Hyderabad look a different outfit from last year.

They have a sense of purpose and some key players — Adam Gilchrist, Rohit Sharma and Fidel Edwards — are looking good. I imagine it will be a tight game, but I’m confident we have the all-round skills to beat them. This year we have good balance and variety in the XI.

Hopefully, though, it will not be quite as tight as the thriller on Thursday night between Team Jaipur and Knight Riders.

That was a breath-taking game. Both teams had their moments, Knight Riders will be really disappointed that they did not win outright and then also squandered their chances in the Super Over. Chris Gayle had set them up beautifully and a target of 16 is very challenging. However, I thought the decision to give Ajantha (Mendis) the ball was a mistake.

He bowled brilliantly earlier in the night and we all know he is a matchwinner, but the dew factor made the move high risk. Personally, I think a seamer was needed and Ishant Sharma was the best candidate.

- Sanath Jayasuriya

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