Dubai: Aravinda De Silva is set to face the biggest challenge of his cricketing career as a chief selector. Muttiah Muralitharan, their strike bowler, has decided to call it a day while their most experienced batsman, Sanath Jayasuriya, is nearing the end of his career.
De Silva, who retired at the age of 38 and played with both Muralitharan and Jayasuriya, is now left with the task of moulding a winning combination. Known for his ability to handle the finest bowling attack in the world, De Silva is a fighter to the core.
In an interview during his visit to Dubai for the Fosters Legends Cricket Series, he talked about the vacuum that Muralitharan can create and the challenges ahead.
GULF NEWS: How tough will it be to replace someone like Muralitharan? Is anyone being groomed to step into his shoes?
DE SILVA: Replacing Murali will be tough. We need to accept the reality and understand that his contribution was very huge. He had a great run over the years. It's not easy for Sri Lanka but even the whole world to replace a player like him who has taken close to 800 Test wickets. The solution will now be to focus working on our strengths. Our strength is the variation we have in our bowling attack and we have to make full use of it. I feel our attack is probably the best bowling attack in the world when it comes to variations. What we need are players who can do the needful on a particular surface. This is important for me than having one good bowler.
Is there enough bench strength in Sri Lanka to remain as a strong team even after the exit of experienced players?
Yes, our country has enough talent. It is how we nurture this talent that is very important. I was involved with our two Under-19 world cup teams for the last two years and I have seen that we have very good talent when compared to other countries.
You retired very early and so how tough was it to drop players who played along with you?
I don't think age matters when it comes to making decisions, as long as you have to take the right decision. I can always talk to them and explain what exactly is the situation resulting in the dropping of the player. I don't think dropping someone who has played with you is a problem as long as you do it with a clear conscience. I am sure they will accept what I say for the simple reason that I played with them and they know me well enough to understand that I will not do any injustice when it comes to selection, especially Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas with whom I have played for nearly ten years.
So can we say that you are on track to find a combination to win the 2011 World Cup?
To be honest, I wasn't watching much cricket earlier. Now that I have taken up the job as chairman of the selection committee I have started watching more cricket to understand the players' strengths, to know exactly where they can fit in the team.
How important is to have unorthodox batsmen?
Batsmen like Virender Sehwag are very important. If a player fails in five or six games out of eight usually the selectors would get rid of him.
Now they have realised that if a player like Sehwag can come out good in one of those matches he is going to win the match for them. We have such a player in Jayasuriya and if he fails in a few games he may come through in one of the games.
Unfortunately, Jayasuriya, for the last two-and-a-half years, has not been among runs and it has been putting a lot of pressure on the middle order and younger players. This is why we had to take a strong stance on him.
Is there an overload of work on Kumar Sangakkara as skipper being the wicket keeper as well as your main batsman?
It is entirely up to the individual and Sangakkara has not, so far, complained about it. Maybe when he reaches beyond the age of 34, he may realise that it is bit too much. At the moment the role he plays makes it easier to balance the team.
Is there excitement in Sri Lanka about hosting the 2011 World Cup though Twenty20 format has won the hearts of the people?
Twenty20 format has taken off but I think the most important factor with regard to a world cup is that it is played only once in four years. It is special like the soccer world cup. Although there is so much soccer played all over the world, when it comes to world cup you could see the enormous interest that it has generated.
Twenty20 World Cup was played last year and this year and staging a world cup every year is really too much. I feel that Twenty20 World Cup should be held only every two years and the World Cup once in four years and only then they will remain special. They are now struggling to find a slot for Test championships of a similar nature and if they do not we might find Test cricket struggle in the future.
How far away is the No 1 ranking from Sri Lanka?
Any team's goal should be to get to the No 1 slot. Working towards that goal is our aim and our whole selection process is based on it.