SRI LANKA legend Mahela Jayawardene backed his star-studded Southern Brave line-up to flourish in the inaugural staging of The Hundred and added: “We just need to go out and have fun.”
The exciting newly-formed franchise side, who are going to be based at the Ageas Bowl for home matches, kick off their schedule in the men’s tournament with a trip to take on Trent Rockets on Saturday.
Legendary batsman Jayawardene was appointed as head coach of the men’s side for the Brave back in 2019 and sees his side go into the 100-ball competition as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
He has overseas stars Devon Conway, Quinton de Kock and Colin de Grandhomme in his line-up, as well as Hampshire’s James Vince and Liam Dawson.
Asked what it was like dealing with the pressure and expectation of being one of the fancied sides, Jayawardene told the Daily Echo: “The two key words you said in that question were expectation and pressure.
“So the expectation does put a lot of pressure on each individual and as a team. That’s a conversation I will have with the boys but I think we just need to go out and have fun.
“We have the skillset to do that, we need to enjoy this Hundred competition. That’s the most important thing.
“Guys on paper, names on paper yes, it looks brilliant but we still have to go out and perform on the day, each day, turn up, handle those little challenges and battles out there in the middle.
“When you have a tag that you are a good team, every other team will want a piece of that as well. I think that will be a bit of motivation for us to make sure we don’t let our guard down and we compete for each and every ball, each and every run in the competition.
“That’s the environment we will create within the group and then we make sure we don’t take anything for granted – not be complacent and turn up in each and every game.”
He added: “But finally we are here, I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’m staying at the ground (at the Ageas Bowl) and watched a game here the other day as well, from a distance.
“It’s brilliant, a great atmosphere, we saw quite a few people coming in now in itself which means there is a lot of enthusiasm for live sports.
“I am pretty sure The Hundred will create that kind of buzz, especially in Southampton.”
Jayawardene himself has become a successful coach in the game following his retirement from playing.
The former Sri Lanka captain has been the mastermind behind the achievements of the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League tournament.
Asked what the key was to putting together a successful team ethos, Jayawardene said: “I think it’s purely on the individuals. When you are picking teams in the draft, yes the skill set and the quality of players is very important.
“But at the same time, we try to pick guys who bring a kind of culture into a setup also. We put a bit of emphasis on that.
“It helps in a very short time that we are trying to put a team together and understand what we are trying to achieve – that kind of identity helps to build those franchise teams in a small period of time.
“We have got some great characters in the team. I have played with and against them many times so I know them, and I managed a few of them in the past few years. It will be good fun.
“I reckon we are as good as we can be in the sense that most of our local players are healthy. Most of them are in pretty good form as well, which is great.
The guys we’ve got are brilliant. We managed to secure some really good quality and overseas recruitments.
“A few of them have already played in England since the beginning of the summer, which helps because they get used to the conditions and have been in pretty good form.”
The Southern Brave’s women’s side, set to be coached by England legend Charlotte Edwards, will also begin their campaign against Trent Rockets on Saturday. (DailyEcho.co.uk)
Southern Brave Squads
Men: Jofra Archer, Danny Briggs, Devon Conway, Alex Davies, Liam Dawson, Quinton de Kock, George Garton, Colin de Grandhomme, Chris Jordan, Jake Lintott, Tymal Mills, Craig Overton, Delray Rawlins, James Vince, Max Waller, Ross Whiteley.
Women: Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier, Sophia Dunkley, Smriti Mandhana, Ella McCaughan, Fritha Morris, Tara Norris, Sonia Odedra, Carla Rudd, Paige Scholfield, Anya Shrubsole, Charlotte Taylor, Stafanie Taylor, Amanda-Jane Wellington, Danni Wyatt.