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Saying “No” to Mahela makes more sense

Mahela Jayawardene wants to move up the order in the 20 over format. The former Sri Lankan skipper says that his style of batting will yield more results for him at the top of the order.

"I always felt that in T20 cricket, the way I play, it’s more suited for me that I come up the order," he told DNA when asked if he prefers to open at the IPL.

"I don’t know whether it’s opening the batting or No.3 but batting higher up the order is better for me. It suits my game. Hopefully I will get to open more."

Will batting up the order really help the stylish Sri Lankan middle order batsman?

Jayawardene has been a middle order batsman right through his career, even as a schoolboy, and although Trevor Chesterfield in his column says that Jayawardene’s batting position in ODIs and Test cricket must not deter the selectors from sending him up the order in the T20 format, I feel such views are driven by emotion and may not suit Sri Lanka as much as it suits Jayawardene and his fans.

With so much cricket on offer compared to 10 or 15 years ago, it’s hard to expect anyone to remember what transpired just a few months ago.

Just prior to this year’s IPL, Sri Lanka completed two international tours. One a tour to Bangladesh for a Tri-Series which featured India and the other a Test, ODI and T20 tour to India. At the end of both tours Mahela Jayawardene was struggling to justify his place in the Sri Lankan ODI and T20 side.

Does the century against Kolkata in an Indian league after a long run of bad performances warrant a sudden change in the national batting line up? He has a best of 41 in his last five T20 performances for Sri Lanka and despite what we hear from Mahela in the interview with DNA, he has been given the opportunity to bat higher up the batting order before.

Sri Lanka’s first ever T20 match was against England in 2006 and Jayawardene came in in at the fall of the first wicket. As captain of the side at the time, he sent himself in at three where he scored a first ball duck. His highest score at number three has been 35.

So are we to expect Jayawardene to be successful up the order at number one, two, or three because of his century against Kolkata, or because of his 91 as an opener for Wayamba in the provincial T20 tournament? Are the selectors now expected to ignore his vulnerabilities and failures in the past? He has been known right through his career as being "suspect" against the moving ball outside off-stump. Unlike Kolkata’s attack, more accomplished international bowling attacks at the ICC World Twenty20 will have no trouble working out the kinks in Jayawardene’s technique as they have done in the past.

Does it not amaze you that Mahela Jayawardene finds himself always one knock away from silencing his critics? More importantly that he always finds himself in a position where he has to silence his critics? Consistency has not been his strength in the limited over format and sending him up the order has to be questioned.

It doesn’t take much to realise that the easiest stages to bat – in a T20 game – is during the powerplays, and facing the new ball on the slow/low wickets in India is a blessing; the new ball comes on to the bat better, making it easier to score runs.

To win the World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies, do we give Mahela a slot where he thinks he will be successful or do we utilise a batsman who can rip the opposition bowling attack to shreds during fielding restrictions and propel us to a win? Aren’t we going there to win?

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