Sanga and I try to compete with each other - Mahela

24 July 2014 03:18 am - 22     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A century at his home ground could well sum-up an excellent career for Mahela Jayawardane who will make his last appearance at Sinhalese Sports Club against South Africa.

Since making his Test debut against India in 1997, Jayawardane, 37, has reached many milestones, in his 18-year-long international career and in an exclusive interview with the Daily Mirror Jayawardane discuss his career, the reasons behind the retirement, his rivalry with friend Kumar Sangakkara, future of the game in Sri Lanka and life after cricket.

By Champika Fernando

Here are excerpts of the interview.

Q: All good things should come to an end. But your decision to retire was not expected. Did the lack of form in recent months play a role in your decision?

A: Not really. My Test form has been pretty decent with over 700 runs in six Test matches and most contributions came in winning matches. It had nothing to do with my decision to retire.  I scored runs in England, in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Of course there’s a dip in my one-day form and I would like to be more consistent. I have contributed in big matches but have not been consistent.

I felt that given where I am in my career, what I have done and standard I have set, it’s all about future. I felt that it’s time that the younger generation gets going. Angelo is very much settled now and there are some very good youngsters coming in. So I think my responsibilities are done now.

Q: How tough was the decision?

A: It was a very tough decision. But I knew it was entirely up to me to make the call and no one else. Obviously I’ve spoken to a few people. It wasn’t that they convinced me, but I told them my position and asked their views. But it was my decision.

Q: Who did you discuss it first and what was his/her advice?

A: It was my wife and obviously my parents who have been there behind me for a very long time. It was not for them to convince me but a conversation where I explained to them what’s going on inside me. I knew my time was right and I made the decision.

Q: As a batsman what was the high point in your Test career?

A: I think there are a few. We have achieved quite a few in the last few years with some quality players. We had some 11 consecutive wins when Sanath was captaining. Then we had a very good period from 2005 to 2008. It was a very critical period of transition. We wanted to change the cricketing culture which I was a part of. Then we managed to beat West Indies in West Indies, South Africa in South Africa and England in England on a few occasion. There was nothing personal but it was about the team. On a personal note I would say the 100 at Lords. That innings really taught me how much strength I have mentally to control certain things in tough situations. Also the 374 against South Africa where I proved that I had the ability to bat for a long innings. These were probably my highlights.

Q: The lowest point if you can recall?

A: Obviously failing to nail a win in Australia. Every time we go there we come close, but we missed out. This is one of the regrets I have in my test career.


Q: How did you motivate yourself to be at the top of the game for so many years?

A: I think it’s rather than being motivated personally, it’s about knowing that you are playing for your country. I think the most honorable thing I have done is to play for my country. It’s a privilege. This kept me motivated to maintain certain standard.

Q: You could have ended up ad Sri Lanka's top scorer in test cricketer if you had continued your magic touch with the bat in the last few years? Any regrets losing it to your friend Sanga?

A: Not at all. What he’s achieved during the last seven-eight years is phenomenal. To play alongside him and some of the great cricketers like, Aravinda (de Silva) Sanath (Jayasuriya), Muttiah (Muralidaran), Chaminda (Vaas) and Angelo Mathews of this generation was fantastic.  To see what Sanga has achieved is something phenomenal. You got only to admire the man for what he has done. I mean I have managed to push myself, actually both of us trying to compete with each other. It was healthy rivalry and this contributed towards team’s success. If you look at his numbers he is one of the best in the world. I am happy with what he has achieved.

Q: You gave up captaincy in 2009, how hard was making the change from captain to player?

A: It wasn’t hard. I have always believed that you have to be the player first as the role of the player is more valuable than the captain. So when I gave up captaincy, it was an easy decision for me, getting into where I was. The transition was very smooth and there were no hiccups.

Q: What has been your greatest satisfaction being a Sri Lankan cricketer?

A: It’s the fan. We probably have the best fans in the world. They understand the game, very passionate and they have not traded for anything. I have enjoyed playing for my country.

Q: You were a non confrontational player and a captain who had immense respect from peers and teams around the world but we have seen a change in that later in your career. You were aggressive and confrontational? How did this happen?

A: Not really. Even when I was a young cricketer, I was very aggressive. May be people did not see that side of me. If opposition says something I would always get back at them. I was very vocal. Even in press conferences I would raise my voice, I was aggressive at teams meetings with certain decisions. I have had lots of confrontation with media as well in early part of my career when it came to player rights and image rights. I was quite happy to do that. I went through these emotions when I had to but in other times I am clam and collective. I felt that I needed that aggression.

Q: As a captain was there anything that you would have done to change if you look back?

A: Not really. I have learnt a lot from victories and defeats as I have progressed, the team has progressed over the years. Everything helps us to be better cricketers. The journey that I have had was something special with ups downs, good times bad times, victories defeats all have helped me to be what I am today.

Q: Is there anything that you see Sri Lanka should do for a better transition of players from school level to the national level?

A: The standards of international cricket have increased over the years. I have played for over 18 years and things have changed, the attitudes and the levels of fitness have changed. So it’s not easy for a school boy to just walk in unless you are an outstanding talent.  We need to try and find a smooth transition for them, especially those in the first class level. I’ve always advocated that the competitiveness of first class cricket needs to be improved. I think we need to create more competitiveness, and quality. We need to focus on the cream of players rather than quantity so that their transition becomes smooth. These are areas that everyone should look at.

Q: We had quite a few young players coming in to the ranks but they have failed to grab the opportunity especially players like Thirimanna and Chandimal. What do you think is the problem?

A: This is what I said. They are talented cricketers but international cricket is not that easy. Some adjust fast and others take time. This is how it happened even during our days. But once they do that, they will find it comfortable. We need to let this process go on.  But at a lower level we need to keep pushing the players. We need to expose them for tough cricket. If we can play four-day cricket at schools level U-17 and U-19 levels, it will help our Test cricket. We need to change with the time now. Of course the same system has produced players like us but things have changed now. We need to be a step ahead and play four-day cricket at schools level and get them a taste of batting longer periods and bowlers to bowl longer spells.  We need to create that appetite at the very young age in order to prepare them for tough Test cricket. Of course we play aggressive one-day cricket but if we are to make leaps and bounce in Test cricket we need adopt these changes fast.

Q: Any intention getting into administration coaching, commentating or even national politics after retiring?

A: I do not think I have those kinds of ambitions but I would probably give what I got back to the game. I will see how I can contribute to the game. I have taken a lot. It’s my responsibility to give something back but it all depends on how I am comfortable.

  Comments - 22

  • Money Thursday, 24 July 2014 03:45 PM

    Earn money online....

    Pubs Thursday, 24 July 2014 03:48 PM

    Guy has done a lot to the country, he was a shrewd captain
    & as a SL player he has achieved more than other guys
    One question .. Have you played cricket & are you able to score 10 runs with soft ball cricket? :D
    He's a great guy & to post a such a comment by a Sri lankan when he's retiring is disgusting

    old citizen Thursday, 24 July 2014 03:49 PM

    Never get involved in dirty politics..Good luck.

    Daya Thursday, 24 July 2014 09:27 AM

    Well done for the country Sri Lanka, Wish you all the best

    chinthaka De Silva Thursday, 24 July 2014 09:55 AM

    You have set standards as the Captain and as a player for the new generation to follow. Thank you for the wonderful cricket you played. It will remeain in our hearts and minds

    Public Thursday, 24 July 2014 05:15 AM

    Wish you "Good Luck" and all the best!

    Jerry Dias Thursday, 24 July 2014 10:13 AM

    Mahela is NOT a great player - may be an above average player but NEVER a great player. With an average in low thirties, he is a pretty ordinary batsman. He is at least 2 years late to announce his retirement. Even if he scores a double hundred at SSC, that does not justify his inclusion in the team. What is the point in scoring in one inning after failing in 15 consecutive mathes?

    DJ Friday, 25 July 2014 04:05 AM

    Many thanks for what you have done for the game of Cricket. We are proud of you!

    Ronnie Pilay Thursday, 24 July 2014 10:46 AM

    Thank You Mahela for the glorious 18 years you have given us. time flies so fast. Can still remember your early days in cricket. just great. all the best for the future.
    From Ronnie Pillay - South Africa

    Nihal Amarasekera Thursday, 24 July 2014 05:36 AM

    Thanks Mahela what you gave for SL cricket.

    DJ Friday, 25 July 2014 04:10 AM

    It seems that Jerry is very poor in Statistics! see the forest, but not the trees!! See his overall contribution - one of the greatest batsmen in our time and the brilliant captain in SL team.

    Ronnie Pilay Thursday, 24 July 2014 11:02 AM

    thank you Mahela for the Years. "Priceless"

    Double X Thursday, 24 July 2014 11:11 AM

    Mahela please don't go away from cricket. Even though you are retired from Test & T20 cricket, please come into our view through some cricket event.

    Merril Thursday, 24 July 2014 11:29 AM

    Thank you and ' Best of Luck' from Ottawa.

    SKY Friday, 25 July 2014 11:51 AM

    Mahelas father Senarath who too was a cricketer and captained Christian College Kotte in Early 60s should be congratulated for gifting Mahela to SLCThank u Mahela for your great national service

    zuh Thursday, 24 July 2014 07:36 PM

    jerry dias are you in control via DM Android App

    Crick Hook Friday, 25 July 2014 12:48 AM

    "Sanga and I try to compete with each other"
    Hello friend,
    Do you know competition drives innovation, new products, jobs, GDP? This is the manthra in the developed countries. I do not know where you come from man? Cricket is a play you can do only if you have food in the tummy, cloths to wear in public, roof at night and money to go to work. The world is going upside down lately but it will be right side up again according to the beliefs of Buddhist cycle of life. We will have a land free of crooks, drugs, rapists, thugs, and those who like to make an easy buck playing or showing on the TV. We need to Simply grow up with knowing the reality,,,,
    Having said that I have a perfect education to the top and a great job bringing new high tech products to the world. So I did enjoy cricket when I had time to watch. Good luck son!!

    Panini Abeyaratne Friday, 25 July 2014 12:51 AM

    The gentleman of the so called gentleman's game. With you all the best in the future

    Premakumar Thursday, 24 July 2014 02:34 PM

    Jerry seem to be out of his mind. Mahela is great.

    uditha wijesinghe Friday, 25 July 2014 01:29 PM

    Unbelievable!!

    Benadik Friday, 25 July 2014 01:56 PM

    Jerry you are absolutely right, but the selectors should take responsibility for inclusion of form and out of form players.

    dilshara Thursday, 24 July 2014 08:53 PM

    cum on mahela and kumar all the sls love u via DM Android App


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