Colombo: New Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said he has taken up the Sri Lanka captaincy for a short term and rejected the Sports Minister's allegation that politics and infighting within the playing squad has caused the team's recent slump.
Jayawardene said that the team has collectively made mistakes but disunity was not the reason for recent Test series losses to England, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa.
"As a team we have no politics or infighting. We did not play well, I admit that," Jayawardene said. "We can't point fingers at a single individual for the shortcomings."
"I took up the captaincy once again, for one year. Our target is to win matches, to regain our place as one of the top-four Test playing nations," Jayawardene told reporters in Colombo. "We have failed as a team in the past. But we have to look beyond that and move forward. We face India and Australia next month. We need to take the positives from South Africa and focus on winning matches again."
"Kumar (Sangakkara) is the number one batsman in the world. It is ridiculous to think that he would under-perform due to internal politics," Jayawardene said.
Tillakaratne Dilshan resigned as captain after losing all four series during a difficult transitional period, following the retirement of stalwarts like leading Test wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan.
Sri lanka, however, managed to record their first Test match win in South Africa last month under Dilshan's captaincy.
But Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said in a speech in Parliament that senior players had acknowledged a communication gap with the others and there has been questions over the level of support given to the captain.
Aluthgamage has also alleged the head coach and his assistants don't work together.
Sri Lanka authorities have initiated a major shake-up following the defeats, replacing the selection committee, captain and coach.
Jayawardene was reappointed captain after only leaving the position in 2009, and he said he has taken over on the understanding that he will hold the position for one year until a younger player is ready. Jayawardene captained the team between 2006 and 2009 before making way to Kumar Sangakkara.
Immediately after Sri Lanka's loss to India in the World Cup final last April, both of them resigned, leading to Dilshan's appointment as captain.
Former Australian opening batsman Geoff Marsh was fired after only completing three months of a two-year contract, replaced by ex-coach Graham Ford.
Jayawardene said, "That is not my area. That is up to the selectors. My focus is to work with what I have got. Graham is experienced, and we need his services to rebuild, harness new players and win games."
The outgoing captain Dilshan said Marsh gave "more than 100 percent" to the team and declined to comment further on the issue.
Asked about his sacking as captain, Dilshan said he had been only picked captain until the South African tour and he was happy to see Jayawardene back as captain.