Dubai: Aravinda de Silva, one of Sri Lanka's greatest batsmen and the chairman of their national selection committee, has played a pivotal role in steering Sri Lanka to stunning victories over top teams.
The stylish right-hander has scored 6,361 runs in Test cricket including 20 centuries, while in the one-dayers he has 9,284 runs to his credit with 11 centuries and 64 half centuries.
De Silva, who is here to support the Fosters Legends Cricket Series, spoke about the various challenges ahead of him as a selector and the future of Sri Lankan cricket.
Gulf News: Why is it that Sri Lanka is unable to win big tournaments despite putting up a creditable performance in almost all top tournaments?
Aravinda: It has been a stigma since the 1996 World Cup. We have been getting into semifinal and finals but unable to perform as we did in the early matches of that tournament.
It is mainly because the experienced players are not stepping forward during the crucial matches. We were in the same situation in 1996 till the quarterfinals.
The young guys freeze a bit in big matches and that is the time when seniors should come forward and take over. As chairman of selection committee, I am now trying to get this message across to my players, especially to be more relaxed and give their best.
So you mean players need to be mentally stronger to cope with the pressure?
Yes, cricket is 90 per cent played in the brain nowadays. Hard work need to be backed by mental strength too.
Do you believe that Ajanta Mendis' magic has been exposed by the batsmen or can he still be a mystery?
Any spinner, after you play for a while, the batsmen will find out how to play him. It is up to the bowler to work out ways and means to keep him guessing.
After a particular stage it is a mental game than sheer ability. So you need to know your strengths and use it accordingly.
How tough was it as a selector to drop your team-mate Jayasuriya. Do you think there is still cricket ahead of him?
It was a tough decision to take as he had done so much for the country. He was putting a lot of pressure on him and the team to keep him in the system. However, we haven't put him completely out of the combination for the 2011 World Cup. We need to see how the current players perform and position themselves in the team. Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas are two players who can come in any moment and do the job as long as they keep themselves fit and keep on paying competitive cricket.
Sri Lanka keeps producing unorthodox players like Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga and Mendis. Why does it happen?
Whenever I have done talent search my main aim is to find unorthodox cricketers. They are the ones who can really make the difference.
If you look at the technically correct players it is hard to dislodge them but an unorthodox bowler may be able to falter them. The world over has realised this fact and that is why people are looking for such bowlers in their own countries.