Colombo - Sri Lanka's captain Mahela Jayawardene insists the World Twenty20 final against the West Indies on Sunday will not hinge on just Chris Gayle's flamboyant batting.
The left-hander lifted the West Indies past Australia in Friday's semi-final with an unbeaten 75 off 41 balls, making him the danger man for Sri Lanka's title hopes.
But Jayawardene, aiming to break his team's losing sequence in three finals in major events, played down Gayle's importance in the match, saying his team never planned for just one individual.
“We have never gone after individuals,” Jayawardene told a media conference on Saturday. “Gayle is just another player in a very good West Indies side. But we plan and analyse for a team, not individuals.
“The West Indies obviously had a ball with the bat against Australia. But its a new game on Sunday and everything will depend on how we execute our plans.
“Its a great challenge to have as a team.”
Jayawardene scoffed at Gayle's remarks that the West Indies were going to ruin Sri Lanka's party by winning the title.
“I can't make out if the pressure is on us or him,” the Sri Lankan captain said. “If he has said something like that, the pressure must be more on him. Let him deal with it.”
Sri Lanka, looking for their first major title since the 1996 triumph in the 50-over World Cup, lost two successive finals of the same tournament in 2007 and 2011 and were also beaten in the World Twenty20 in 2009.
“The preparations have been pretty good this time,” said Jayawardene. “We are not thinking about what happened in the past. We were probably not good enough then.
“But we have the capacity to win and we will focus on that. We just need to relax and play good cricket.”
Jayawardene emphatically rejected suggestions that Sri Lanka had deliberately ordered slow wickets for the tournament to suit their spin bowlers like Ajantha Mendis.
“This is an ICC (International Cricket Council) event and the ICC controls the pitch, not the Sri Lanka team or the Sri Lankan board,” he said, and pointed to their semi-final against Pakistan.
“Why would we have prepared a turning pitch against Pakistan when they have some of the best spinners in the game like (Saeed) Ajmal, (Shahid) Afridi and (Mohammad) Hafeez.”
Sri Lanka, restricted to 139-4 on a slow turner after electing to bat, hit back to keep Pakistan down to 123-7 in a thrilling semi-final on Thursday.
Jayawardene said Sunday's final will be the biggest cricket match to be staged in Sri Lanka where tickets to the 35,000-capacity Premadasa stadium sold out weeks ago.
“This is definitely the biggest game we have staged,” he said. “Its been a great couple of weeks for the entire country.
“The expectations from our fans are the same as they were at the start of the tournament. They wanted us to reach the final even then. And we must now win it for them.
“But we have not gone ahead of ourselves since the tournament started. In the final it will all depend on how we play on Sunday. That's what T20 cricket is all about.” - Sapa-AFP