KARACHI // Sanath Jayasuriya's 55-ball century for Sri Lanka against Bangladesh made a mockery of the furore surrounding player burn-out and the crammed cricket calendar. The India skipper Mahendra Dhoni sparked the debate days earlier by complaining about his side's heavy workload. Dhoni's gripe was that his team, which includes some players who are half the age of Jayasuriya, had been forced to play cricket for "36 hours out of the last 84."
Gary Kirsten, the India coach, backed his skipper yesterday when he said: "I think that three games in four days in this heat took a toll on the players. It is unfair to expect players to play that amount of cricket in such a short space of time in 35 degree heat. "MS [Dhoni] is a brilliant cricketer and the sort of man who is happy to play every game, but he knows that it is not practical. "Fatigue can lead to loss of form as well as injuries, both of which can adversely affect a player's long-term career."
Since their last match, India have had three days of rest and recuperation, which included a trip to a local water park, as well as some late night parties. In contrast, Jayasuriya was celebrating his 39th birthday with back-to-back matches. The Sri Lankans have had the most intense workload in the Asia Cup, having played four matches in the space of six days. One of their off days included traveling from Lahore to Karachi, when they had to rise at 4am - just five-and-a-half hours after the conclusion of their pool match against the UAE.
However, they have not complained yet. The heat was more oppressive in Lahore, where they played their two pool matches. When Shoaib Malik, the Pakistan captain, was struck down by dehydration, the Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene joked: "Our players must be fitter than the Pakistanis." The Sri Lankans approach their fitness sessions with their Australian trainer Jade Roberts with just as much zeal as they do matches.
The ageless Jayasuriya is the shining light, and Jayawardene said: "I think it is all about the hunger you have within you and the passion to perform. This game is based on performance, form and how you go about things dictates that. Sanath is as fit as anybody. "I've been lucky enough to play with him for 10 years now, and his attitude hasn't changed. We have confidence in the game plan he has, and there is a lot for us to learn from watching him."
Jayawardene named a full-strength team against Bangladesh, even though it was their second game in 24 hours. "We want to win this Asia Cup. It is very important to us," he said. @Email:email@example.com