Jayawardene happy to be out of Sri Lanka

Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka vice-captain, has said travelling away from Sri Lanka has allowed the team to spend more time together, away from the distractions they face back home. Sri Lanka played their first five group games at home, but have travelled to Mumbai for their sixth match, against New Zealand on Friday.

"When we are at home as a team there are so many things that are happening; we hardly spend time together," Jayawardene told PTI. "When we were in Kandy and Hambantota, we spent some quality time. But, when we are in Colombo there is something or the other happening. We only practice, come back and everyone goes away.

"When we came to India, we had a couple of really good days when we played some games together and had some activities. It's a good thing for the team as well to come out of Sri Lanka and bond together, and analyse a bit more as a team what we need to do."

While the scheduling of the New Zealand game is slightly puzzling, given that the other two host nations, India and Bangladesh, are playing all their games on home soil, Sri Lanka's players have been positive about it. Tillakaratne Dilshan had said after Sri Lanka's win against Zimbabwe that playing at the Wankhede Stadium would give the team an opportunity to get a feel for the stadium, which will host the World Cup final. Jayawardene echoed those statements, saying playing on different conditions was good preparation for the games ahead.

"The wicket here is probably slightly different; a bit more flat I guess. The ground seems to be smaller, as well, than the ones we play on at home. But we have to adjust."

New Zealand will be missing their captain Daniel Vettori and experienced fast bowler Kyle Mills for the match, but Jayawardene said that would not affect them much because they are a side who concentrate on the team effort. "I think those two guys probably are the senior-most bowlers in their line-up. But of what I have seen of New Zealand, they always play as a unit. Individuals come out and perform but they always play as a team. Especially with Daniel and Mills not being there, they might get together and have a different game plan against us."

While both teams have already qualified for the quarter-finals, the match will play a role in deciding what position they finish at in the group, thus deciding who they will face in the next round. Finishing in the top two could mean avoiding playing South Africa or India, who are both among the tournament favourites, but Jayawardene was not too bothered about who Sri Lanka's opponents would be.

"We can't pick and choose who we want to play in the quarter-finals. We have spoken very little about it because there are a lot of equations. We want to concentrate on the New Zealand game and finish high up in our group. We have prepared for the World Cup knowing we can go all the way and win it. So for us to do that we have to play anybody; that's our attitude."

The statistics suggest Sri Lanka are the clear favourites to win the clash. In the last five years, they have beaten New Zealand in seven of their ten completed one-day matches. They have been in much better form coming into the World Cup, with a win-loss ratio of 1.80 in ODIs in the last two years compared to New Zealand's 0.73. Jayawardene, though, wasn't reading too much into those numbers.

"In this tournament we have seen on a given day anyone can beat anybody. It's a very open tournament, and it's important how you get yourself into a rhythm now, especially given the fact we have come to the business part of the tournament. So you want to try and execute what you want to execute, and brush up on areas which you want to brush up."

While New Zealand have confirmed the absence of two of their main bowlers from the match, Sri Lanka are yet to have settled on a bowling combination. So far in the tournament, they have shuffled the bowlers around, with everyone in the squad apart from Dilhara Fernando having been given a game. Jayawardene said the trend would continue against New Zealand.

"We have so many options with our bowling attack. The batting seems pretty much sorted, but with the bowlers, we have played them according to conditions and opposition. It has worked for us. We will see what is going to be the best combination to play New Zealand."

Jayawardene's own World Cup has dwindled a bit after a century in Sri Lanka's opening match, against Canada. He was out cheaply against Pakistan, and has not really had a chance to spend time at the wicket since. He said he had been hitting the ball well in the nets and was hoping to get the opportunity to bat for a long period of time.

"Hopefully I can spend some time out in the middle [against New Zealand] because I haven't had the chance to bat in the last two games. Against Pakistan I got a very good one from Shoaib [Akhtar]; he delivers one of those on a few occasions. Against Australia I got run out after a great start. The other two games I did not get a knock. I would love to spend some more time in the middle before the quarter-finals.