Jayawardene Looking For First Series Win In Caribbean

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said he was looking forward to an exciting series in the West Indies where Sri Lanka are yet to win a Test match. Digicel, the official sponsors of the 2008 Home Series, along with President of the Guyana Cricket Board and West Indies Cricket Board director Chetram Singh were on hand to welcome the visiting team to the Caribbean. Digicel Group Sponsorship Manager Ciara Ryan told Jayawardene that the sponsor and all the Caribbean are looking forward to an intense and exciting series. Jayawardene agreed. “It’s going to be an exciting tour, I’m looking forward to it, we’ve got some youngsters coming through the set up now so it’s going to be a very good experience for those guys and West Indies is a very good side so we’re definitely looking forward to the challenge,” said Jayawardene, speaking shortly after his team’s arrival at the Cheddie Jagan International Airport in Guyana after a 50 hour journey from their home in Asia. Jayawardene, who appreciated the warm and hospitable welcome, said his team is looking forward to their first Test series win in the Caribbean. “We’re very good at home. In our conditions we dominate but away from home we’ve been winning a lot [recently]. We beat England in England, New Zealand and we came close in Australia so we’re headed in the right direction, if we can keep competing away from home, challenging ourselves to be better cricketers every day that’s the way forward. It’s going to be a great challenge and hopefully we can win the first [Test] series in the West Indies,” Jayawardene said. The Digicel Home Series 2008 will more than likely be the farewell tour to the Caribbean for senior bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan, the world record holder for most Test wickets and Chaminda Vaas, the devastating left arm swing bowler. Jayawardene said they have been fine ambassadors for Sri Lanka’s cricket and are a wealth of cricketing knowledge which he hopes the younger players can tap into. “Those two guys have been excellent servants to Sri Lanka cricket. For the younger generation they spearheaded the attack for quite some time now and [have been] giving the guidance to these guys. Hopefully before they leave the younger guys coming through can take much more from these two senior bowlers, they have done it all over the world and are two of the best guys you can talk to about the game. Myself and Kumar (Sangakarra) have learnt a lot from these guys, it will be a good series for these guys, they will want to enjoy, want to do well in West Indies because it is probably the last time they will come here,” the 30 year old right handed batsman reasoned. In the batting department he said that much of the burden will rest on his own shoulders along with the dynamic Kumar Sangakkara who has been enjoying an extended purple patch recently. “With the changes we are getting and different people coming through the set up, the senior players will have to take the burden and the responsibility and that is with any team. Both Kumar and myself are both happy to do that but we’ve got some exciting youngsters coming through but as soon as they hit their strides they will put their hand up and take a bit more responsibility and I’m looking forward to that but til they are ready it is up to us (senior batsman) to steady the ship,” said Jayawardene who holds the record as the leading Sri Lankan Test run scorer. Jayawardene has scored 7271 runs in 93 Tests at an impressive average of 51.93, inclusive of 21 centuries and 30 fifties. He has an astonishing highest Test score of 374 which he made against South Africa in 2006. It is the fourth highest individual total in Test matches. Only Brian Lara (400 and 375) and Australian Matthew Hayden (380) have better individual scores. The first Digicel Test match begins on March 22nd at the Guyana National Stadium but the Sri Lankans will play a three day warm up game against a Guyana President Select XI commencing March 17th also at the Guyana National Stadium. The second and final Digicel Test will be played at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad commencing April 3rd. Sri Lanka has previously played two Test series in the Caribbean in 1997 and 2003. Both were two match Test series which they lost 1-0 on both occasions. They are yet to win a Test match in the West Indies. This will be the first time they will be playing Test cricket in Guyana and Trinidad at Tobago. Marvan Atapattu is the only Sri Lankan batsman to have scored a Test century in the West Indies (118 at Beausejour in 2003). Sanath Jayasuriya, the devastating left handed opener, is the most prolific Sri Lankan batsman in Test cricket in the West Indies. In eight innings he amassed 311 runs at an average of 44.4 with a highest score of 90. Muralitharan, Ravindra Pushpakumara and Prabath Nissanka are the only Sri Lankan bowlers to have taken five wicket hauls in the West Indies. Muralitharan did it thrice (5 for 34 at the Antigua Recreation Ground, 5 for 113 at Arnos Vale and 5 for 138 at Beausejour) while Pushpakumara (5 for 41 at Arnos Vale) and Nissanka (5 for 64 at Sabina Park) did it once each. Muralitharan, the off spinning genius, has taken a total of 25 Test wickets in the West Indies from seven innings and only once did he fail to bag more than three wickets in an innings. The West Indies team arrives in Guyana on March 18th.