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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Moody steels Sri Lanka
By Paresh Soni
BBC Sport in Barbados

Tom Moody
Moody has been Sri Lanka coach for two years
When Sri Lanka take to the field on Saturday for the World Cup final against Australia it will be a much tougher team mentally than the one Tom Moody began coaching in June 2005.

The talent was there - how could it not be with the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Muttiah Muralitharan at his disposal?

But while they were formidable at home, handing out thrashings to just about anyone in Colombo or Dambulla, they could just as easily crumble on foreign fields.

And so it continued in the early stages of the Australian's coaching reign, with a 6-1 humbling in India coming before three defeats in four games in New Zealand.

The former Australia all-rounder, who won the World Cup in 1999, was not going to tolerate that kind of inconsistency for much longer and the turning point came in the summer of 2006.

With a younger skipper in Jayawardene at the helm as Marvan Atapattu was ruled out with an injury, Moody coaxed his team into a stunning 5-0 hammering in the one-day series in England.

And the hosts were lucky to get nil so comprehensive were some of the defeats!

The batsmen were irresistible, the fielding breathtaking, and new pace bowling star Lasith Malinga provided a real cutting edge.

He's not happy when I'm cruising - he's not happy with anyone cruising for that matter - and has pushed me a lot

Jayawardene on Moody

Suddenly the Sri Lankans were early contenders for the big prize here in the Caribbean.

"It was a tour that our younger guys got a lot from," Jayawardene admitted before this tournament.

"We went there as underdogs, it was a learning experience and we came up trumps in the end. The players knew they could handle pressure and had the ability to perform at that level."

That inner belief has been in evidence throughout their World Cup campaign, with eight victories secured in 10 games.

Victory was nearly snatched from the jaws of defeat by South Africa in Guyana, while three key bowlers - Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan - were absent when they lost to the Aussies in Grenada.

Jayawardene has been a central part of that charge towards Saturday's date with the holders.

He has scored 529 runs, including the majestic century which helped see off New Zealand in Tuesday's semi-final in Jamaica.

The 29-year-old was previously just the kind of cricketer who would drive Moody to distraction: technically flawless but mentally weak.

Moody and Jayawardene
Moody and Jayawardene embrace after Sri Lanka make it to the World Cup final

However, the partnership with Moody has transformed him into a steely customer who marshalls his men with real vigour in the field.

"The captaincy has probably helped but Tom has definitely pushed me to the limits," Jayawardene said after the win over the Kiwis.

"He's not happy when I'm cruising - he's not happy with anyone cruising for that matter - and has pushed me a lot.

"I've found I can push myself further as well, all of which has contributed to making me a much tougher cricketer."

That could be said of a number of Jayawardene's colleagues, such as the once fragile Dilhara Fernando, who produced a brave spell at the death to break England's hearts in Antigua.

It is quite clear Moody prefers a young and mobile team, and turning to former Warwickshire team-mate Trevor Penney as a specialist fielding coach has been a masterstroke.

All of this has meant that old and conservative hands like Marvan Atapattu have found it tough to get back in, and Moody kept faith in Upul Tharanga despite the young opener's rough patch in the World Cup.

Tharanga repaid that against the Kiwis and represents the dynamism the 41-year-old coach is keen to infuse his team with.

But despite having so much potential to work with, Moody - if the speculation is to be believed - is about to leave for pastures new.

The Western Australia Cricket Association has been public and firm in its insistence that he is top of their list to join them after the World Cup.

By all accounts, the man himself was eyeing the England job before Peter Moores was appointed, while India are thought to be planning overtures to keep him in the subcontinent.

Indeed, with all but one of his fellow coaches out of work, Moody is suddenly the man with all the options.

That more than anything speaks volumes for what he has achieved in taking Sri Lanka to the brink of their second World Cup triumph.

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