Mumbai: New Zealand will be going into the Friday’s World Cup match without their two key bowlers — Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills — but Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene insists that the Black Caps will still be a dangerous outfit whose strength lies in playing as a team.
With both the injured bowlers rested for the match, Jayawardene said New Zealand may come up with a different game plan.
“They (Vettori and Mills) are the two most senior bowlers in their line-up. But we can't take anything lightly. New Zealand always play as a team, they hardly come up with any individual performance. That is where they are most dangerous. Especially, with Daniel and Mills not being there, they might get together and have a different game plan against us. We will have to make sure we execute our gameplan,” Jayawardene said after his team’s practise session on Friday.
“Winning is a good habit. You want to win this and take some confidence into the quarterfinals. But that does not mean if you lose, your tournament is finished. You still have another game. Do good things in this game whether we win or lose and move onto the other.”
The former captain did not look least perturbed that their league match was moved to a neutral venue despite their being the co-hosts. He, instead, says that playing outside of Sri Lanka has helped in bonding the team.
“I look at it in a positive way. It is good for us to come away from there and play New Zealand. They are a good side and we can look forward to some good cricket here. We also play in a new stadium.
“We hardly spent time when we were at Kandy or at Colombo as something is always happening. Everyone comes, practices and goes away. When we came to India we have had couple of really good days and did some activity. So it is good for the team to come out of Sri Lanka and come together a bit more.
“We also did more analysing as a team, where we are and what we need to do as a team as we move to the next phase, all in all it is an advantage,” he said.
Jayawardene said their focus as of now lies firmly on the game against New Zealand and not on whom they are likely to meet in the quarterfinals.
“We have spoken very little about it purely because anything could happen. There is no particular team we are thinking about. The important thing is that we concentrate on the New Zealand game and finish our group on a high. I think in a World Cup, we can’t pick and choose.
“We prepared for this World Cup knowing that we can go all the way and win it. To do that, we have to play anybody and give our best. So, that is our attitude.”
New Zealand have already played in the revamped Wankhede Stadium against Canada but Jayawardene said that does not give their opponents an edge.
“The grounds in Sri Lanka are more or less the same. This ground is slightly different, it is smaller, something we will we have to adjust to, and may be more batsman friendly. Rest I do not see much difference,” he said.
Jayawardene said they are yet to finalise their bowling attack for the match.
“We want to have another look tomorrow. We have a lot of options in our bowling attack. Batting seems to be sorted out, but we have played the bowlers according to the conditions and opposition and that has worked for us. We will see what can be the combination,” he said.
He, however, ruled out that Sri Lanka enters the contest as favourites against the Black Caps.
“When you come to a big tournament you can be a favourite, but anyone can beat anybody. I think it is a very open tournament. The important thing is how you get yourself into a rhythm now, especially given the fact that now you come at the business end of the tournament. So you want to execute what you wanted to and brush up the required aspect,” he said.
“It’s been a smooth sail so far. But once you reach the quarterfinals anything can happen. That is where the big games are going to come up and people who make few mistakes will prevail.”
Asked whether not playing tougher teams in group A will work against them in the quarterfinals, Jayawardene said: “With Bangladesh in Group B, we knew that they will put up a fight. Ireland have surprised some teams not only in this tournament but also in the past.
On his own form, Jayawardne hoped to spend a longer time at the crease.
“I have not been able to do that in previous games. I would like to spend a bit more time at the middle before the quarters. I have been hitting quite well. I got a good ball from Shoaib Akhtar against Pakistan. Against Australia, I got run out after a great start. In the two other games, I did not get a knock.”