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Sri Lanka aims at a medal

The Sri Lankan cricket team for the Asian Games in China left the island on the 17 with high hopes of bringing a medal back to the country. The team which is led by Jehan Mubarak includes several T 20 specialists and national players. Daily News met up with the mild mannered captain of the team Jehan Mubarak who talked about the Asian games,the team,Captaining Wayamba and his future hopes. These are some excerpts from the interview.

Q: What are our chances in the upcoming Asian games with India not sending a team and Pakistan also sending second string team?

A: Our chances are quite good I believe. Pakistan and Bangladesh will be fielding their second string team, but they will be very competitive in the T20 format. While our main challenge will be from these teams, we will also face the challenge of adapting to the conditions in China. This is the first time cricket (of this standard) is being played in China and the teams that adapt quickest to the weather, pitch and ground conditions will have the upper hand.

Q: The team is filled with hard hitters and T 20 specialists. Your thoughts on it?

A: Yes, we have several players, guys like Jeewantha, Indika, Chinthaka, Kaushalya and Dilhara who are capable of clearing the ropes. While we need the hard hitters, we also have the grafters in the squad who can work the ball around and rotate the strike. This balance is going to be very important when it comes to winning games.

Q: The team looks a blend of experience and youth. The side has a 37 year old Jeevantha as well as a 20 year old Kusal Janith. Was it a problem in communicating with the team?

A: Not really, both of them played for Wayamba with me and they work very well together, and in fact we all gel very well as a team. Sometimes you need the senior players to guide and encourage the juniors with their experience, and sometimes you need the juniors with their talent and enthusiasm to inject a bit of life and energy into the team, and the two complement each other perfectly.

Q: The team has Ex Lankan seamer Nuwan Zoysa and forgotten hard hitting batsman Indika De Saram. Do you think that they have a chance of returning to the Lankan team?

A: To me anyone has the opportunity to make it to the National Team. Its just a matter of two or three good innings for the selectors to take notice of you, and if your fitness levels and fielding is up to the mark I don't think anyone should be tagged as 'too old' or 'forgotten'. Even though these may not be considered International matches, the competition will be fierce and our manager Ranjit Fernando being a national selector as well, will definitely encourage everyone to challenge for a place in the National Team.

Q: Whom do you have faith in succeeding in unknown Chinese conditions?

A: You just need two guys to get going either with the bat or the ball to win a T20 game, and we have many in our squad who are capable of winning a game, that its hard to name a few. I have mentioned a few batsmen earlier but Isuru Udana and Malinga Bandara to me will be the key bowlers for us in winning matches. But as I said it is those who are able to adapt their game when needed who will bring us success.

Q: You have been captaining the Wayamba team and now the Sri Lankan side for the Asian games. Do you enjoy Captaining?

A: Firstly it is a great honour to lead a Sri Lankan cricket team at such a huge event as the Asian Games. I have had the pleasure of captaining the Wayamba Team and the Asian Games XI, both which have extremely talented players and are very easy to work with, and I must say that I have totally enjoyed my time with them both on and off the field. As for captaining, I enjoy trying to out-think the opposition with different strategies, as well to get the best out of my team both individually and as a unit.

Q: Wayamba team which had a whole lot more preparation for the CLT 20 this time put up a miserable performance although possessing a lot of National players. Why was this?

A: Yes it was disappointing after all that preparation. We were playing against very good teams who had experience playing in similar conditions, and unfortunately out top experienced players couldn't get going. Especially with the bat, we lost too many wickets early on, which exposed our relatively inexperienced middle order.

At this level in this format, its very hard to play 'catch-up' cricket, you have to take control of the game- which we struggled to do. However, though the results were disappointing, each of us we gained valuable experience both as individuals and as a team and will hold us in good stead in the future.

Q: You were once a part of the Sri Lankan team and you came under severe criticism for not performing to your potential and you were finally dropped. Any thoughts on that?

A: As a professional cricketer you are always under pressure to perform, that is part of the job and is something we learn to enjoy to thrive on that pressure.

Unfortunately I haven't performed consistently at international level, which always opens the door for criticism.

I know there will always be detractors, but my focus is on my game and improving it to be the best I can be- I leave the selection to the selectors and the criticism to the critics.

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