Gunawardene: ‘We need to get the mental side right’

Sri Lanka’s batting coach says his team is low on confidence ahead of the fifth ODI.

Avishka Gunawardene... “If I say that mood is really good I will be lying.”   -  PTI

Sri Lanka batting coach Avishka Gunawardene says the confidence level of the team is very low after being drubbed by India in the ODIs and emphasised that his players need to work on the mental aspect of the game.

India has taken a commanding 4-0 lead in the series, denying the host a direct entry in the 2019 World Cup. "We don't have much time for preparation. It is only two days since the last game. More than preparation and stuff we need to get mental side right. As coaches we try to give all the players confidence. We will see how it goes. We have given them some targets and let’s see how it goes," Gunawardene said on the eve of the fifth ODI.

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Sri Lanka needed to win at least two ODIs in the ongoing series for direct qualification and now need favourable results in the series involving West Indies, Ireland and England to know their fate. "It has gone beyond our control now. We have to make sure that we try and win the game tomorrow. That is the only way we can turn things around. If I say that mood is really good I will be lying. To be brutally honest, confidence level is really down and naturally so when you are 4-0 down.

"But I must say that the guys are trying hard. Their enthusiasm is still pretty high. We have been trying to give them certain targets and hopefully we can achieve those targets," said the batting coach.

‘Small things matter’

Gunawardene insisted that his players had potential and urged the younger lot to progress fast. "In all four ODIs, almost everyone in the top six batsmen have taken starts. However they could not go on to get a big one. It is these small things that matter. These guys are still young and they need to learn, and fast," he said.

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"Dot balls has become a big issue for us. Our dot-ball ratio in the last 12 months is something like 145 in a game. That is almost 50 per cent. That is one area we have to rectify. We have told the team to improve that area by about 15 per cent. We are trying to see whether we could improve our singles ratio while cutting down on dot-ball ratio. Another target is that we try to tell the top five that someone has to bat for 45 overs.

"Batting partnership is something that we have spoken where we ask players to give us a 100-plus stand and a 75-plus stand. We achieved those targets in the Zimbabwe series. If we can do that the batsmen are capable of getting a decent score," he said.

‘Comfortable’ Thirimanne

Gunawardene also highlighted how he has worked with different batsmen in the past year or so. In particular, he spoke about senior batsman Lahiru Thirimanne who has returned to the international fold in this series. "Eight months back he was with me in the A-team. He had a few issues with the way his head was moving around. We have worked on it. He felt comfortable with it. It was working for him and hopefully he will go on to get a big one," he said.

One of the key factors for Sri Lanka has been the failure of highly-rated Kusal Mendis. After an impressive Test series, he failed to kick on and so far has only scored 57 runs in four matches. "We had a chat after the last game. He is still 22. We feel that he is mentally drained and it is nothing to do with any technical things. We will see what the management comes up with. It is better to give him a break before the next tour rather than keep playing him throughout," said Gunawardene.

"Kusal has played more international cricket than anyone else in the past year. Personally, someone who is young like that should be playing longer versions of the game more often. I would rather keep him out of T20 cricket," he said.

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