Mahela Jayawardene is Sri Lanka's consultant for the first round of the 2021 T20 World Cup and it was his data-driven insight that convinced the team management to bat Avishka Fernando at No. 4. The 23-year-old hasn’t scored a single fifty in his 22-T20I career but has managed scores of 83* off 59, 33 off 18, 62* off 42 and 61 off 37 in Sri Lanka’s last four warm-up games - two against Oman and one each against Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea.
"Avishka is very comfortable at No. 4. We had a bit of a brainstorming session, and Mahela came with a plan. He had a look at stats which he sent on to Dasun Shanaka and myself. It was pretty clear that No. 4 was a good fit for Avishka in terms of the brand of cricket we wanted to play. Avishka will bat at No. 4 tomorrow, definitely," said head coach Mickey Arthur ahead of Sri Lanka's tournament opener against Namibia on Monday (October 18)
"With Avishka, we know that after 15 balls, he strikes at 160. It was just getting Avishka to those 15 balls. Up front he just puts himself under a little bit of pressure in terms of dot balls. So when he's come in at No. 4, generally the field has been back, which has allowed him to rotate strike and got him into the innings. Which gets him to the point where once he gets in, he's almost unstoppable. We sort of tinkered with it and tried it, and touch wood, it's worked so far. Let's hope that continues through the tournament."
Jayawardene has become a highly respected coach in the franchise-based leagues. The 44-year-old has led Mumbai Indians to three titles and recently won the inaugural edition of The Hundred with Southern Brave.
“We get a lot of help from him. He's got a lot of experience. He analyses not only our team, but the oppositions' weaknesses. He sees the game in a unique way. He's already contributed a lot, and we're looking forward to getting more from him through the tournament,” said Shanaka.
Meanwhile, Arthur added: "Mahela's contributed a massive amount. One of the reasons I was so excited to work with Mahela was because I worked with him a long time ago when he was still playing, in franchise cricket, and I was struck by his ability to analyse the game exceptionally well. I think his cricket brain is amazing. We've had some good chats, and some good debates."