After a dismal 2023 World Cup, the Sri Lankan team’s consultant coach Mahela Jayawardene blamed a large portion of the team’s problems on the kinds of surfaces being built for local cricket in Sri Lanka. He claimed that these pitches had not prepared their spinners for conditions that made them have to work harder for their wickets, nor had they enabled their hitters to be at peak hitting form going into the World Cup in India on flatter decks.
Sri Lanka did not make it into the 2025 Champions Trophy after finishing ninth in the points rankings. Only once, against Pakistan, were they able to score more than 280 runs in the five times they batted first.
“We knew that when we went to India, looking at the wickets, that we had to play at a very high tempo, which we discussed with the batters,” Jayawardene stated. “They weren’t used to that, and most of the surfaces we play on in Sri Lanka prevented us from doing that in the run-up to the World Cup.
“In domestic cricket we play on pretty slowish wickets so the batters aren’t going to trust their shot selection on good wickets, because they’re not used to that, against high quality bowling.”
Pathum Nissanka and Sadeera Samarawickrama were consistent top-order contributors among the batting, while Dilshan Madushanka led the bowling attack. Following his 21 wickets, Kasun Rajitha had the next-highest figure for Sri Lanka with eight, followed by Angelo Mathews and Maheesh Theekshana with six each.
Sri Lanka was particularly harmed by Theekshana’s difficulties, but there was very little assistance in the form of alternative spin options. Once again, Jayawardene placed the blame on the domestic pitches, which are known to suit spin bowling. Crucially, though, these pitches do not require extra revolutions to be imparted on the ball, as some successful World Cup spinners, like Mitchell Santner and Ravindra Jadeja, have been known to do.
“We don’t play on many good wickets when we play in Sri Lanka.” Therefore, our spinners don’t really need to bowl with any kind of overspin on those wickets, even if that’s what’s required to thrive on wickets like those in India. That’s where our spinners really shine out.
In domestic cricket, spinners bowl 66% of the deliveries, according to data we ran in the high performance facility. Last week, we even witnessed a match in which spinners bowled the entire innings. These are the main issues that need to be resolved.”
“Take someone like Rangana Herath; he had that expertise since he played for years in England. How we train our spinners to develop those abilities is what we need to see. Currently, domestic cricket is where players who are even from the Under-19 squad will start their career. But we need them to play on good wickets in order to elevate them to the proper level.
In domestic cricket, spinners bowl 66% of the deliveries, according to data we ran in the high performance facility. Last week, we even witnessed a match in which spinners bowled the entire innings. These are the main issues that need to be resolved. We cannot elevate Sri Lankan cricket to the necessary level even within the next ten years until we address these issues.”
Speaking at a post-mortem that lasted an hour and thirty minutes, Jayawardene was subjected to a barrage of questions from the nation’s media regarding everything from team changes and toss decisions to more comprehensive inquiries about Sri Lanka’s place in the wider cricket world and the future of a team that seemed to be heading in the wrong direction.
Only Angelo Mathews was not there at the briefing, which included the complete World Cup team. The coaching staff was represented by Jayawardene and head coach Chris Silverwood. However, Jayawardene took the initiative to handle a press that might occasionally be antagonistic. He asked those who were critical to “trust and be patient” with a “skillful group.”
“We need to have patience and trust in this process. This is a talented ensemble, according to Jayawardene. “The anticipations, I comprehend. The supporters, I believe, are all aware that we will perform well and do well in the World Cup. However, both the expectations and the plans must be reasonable.
“Those who are hopping about and yelling must understand what one-day cricket is and how we’re going to compete in the future. Plans are in place; all we need to do is be patient and put in more effort where we need to improve.”
But more immediately, Jayawardene called attention to the team’s level of fitness and fielding. Aside from injuries to Dasun Shanaka, Matheesha Pathirana, and Lahiru Kumara, Sri Lanka’s fielding unit performed the worst in the tournament in terms of percentage of catches dropped. Jayawardene stated that weariness was a contributing factor in some of the team’s subpar finishes.
“We had the most catches dropped in the competition—16. Such errors are unaffordable when dealing with a reduced bowling unit. Although they put a lot of effort into their fielding drills, we fall short in terms of preparation and performance on the field. That is a function of experience.
“But the fitness is what matters most to me. Over the course of the competition, I noted that as a result of our varying levels of fitness, we were more and more exhausted, which affected our results. We witnessed guys making a lot more mistakes in the final game compared to the first. Both physical and mental exhaustion cause that. That is the reason for the execution and focus breakdown.”
“The way one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket are played differs significantly. We must figure out how to include additional one-day games in the upcoming FTP. Additionally, there should be more domestic one-day games played.”
Looking ahead, there are some significant challenges in the way. The cycle building up to the 2027 tournament will include two T20 World Cups in between, just like the World Cup cycle that came before it. Furthermore, Sri Lanka will have played a lot less One-Day International cricket before the next ODI World Cup because they were not selected for the 2025 Champions Trophy. This could mean that the ODI team is underprepared for another World Cup in four years.
“There’s a big difference between how T20 cricket and one-day cricket is played,” Jayawardene stated. “We need to figure out how to include more one-day games in the upcoming Future Tours Programme (FTP).” Additionally, there should be more domestic one-day games played.
“After the World Cup, we will debrief, prepare for the following year, the two years after that, and so forth, and determine what the best course of action is going ahead. We have to consider not only the T20 and one-day teams, but also the Test team, who came extremely near to making it to the World Test Championship final the previous time around.
Jayawardene was keen to emphasize patience with the present group of players despite the team’s dismal recent performance, emphasizing the need of first developing a recognizable culture within the squad.
“Our players’ talent has brought us this far; the problem is that they don’t always use it to its full potential. This is also known to the players. It is their collective duty to establish a team culture. That is each player’s obligation.
“But they have to do it themselves; someone can’t just show up and impart knowledge. The most difficult task is fostering that culture while succeeding. The main thing I think is that culture comes before strategy. It will be simple to implement the team plan if that culture exists. This team can achieve great things if we can accomplish that.”