The moment that the cricketing fraternity was waiting for came on Wednesday night when Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya walked out together to open the innings for Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium.
All eyes were on Tendulkar, who was making his IPL debut and playing a competitive match after more than six weeks. But it was Jayasuriya, the Matara Marauder, who walked away with the accolades in his whirlwind manner.
He faced only 45 balls, but sent almost one-fourth (11) of those over the fence during his unbeaten knock of 114 to help Mumbai cruise to a comfortable nine-wicket win over Chennai.
In the seven matches Mumbai played before Wednesday, Jayasuriya had failed to make his mark with the bat. It appeared as if he was waiting for Tendulkar to join him at the crease.
It was one of the rare occasions when Tendulkar was outdone. When Joginder Sharma foxed the Mumbai skipper in the eighth over, the scoreboard read 82 of which Tendulkar's share was 12.
“Not just him (Tendulkar), the whole dressing room is very happy,” a relaxed Jayasuriya said on Thursday afternoon. “We are only talking about this – if someone scores 80 or a hundred, we will win. That's what happened. Yesterday, it was me, in the future it could be someone else.”
From the moment he hit his first of the 11 sixes – a flick off Albie Morkel – it appeared as if it was going to be his day. “It wasn't as if I was in bad nick. I was getting the 20s or 30s quickly so I didn't realise that it was my day till I reached fifty,” said the former Sri Lanka captain.
“There was more bounce and carry through the wicket. So when I got a start, I thought I should not throw it away and keep on batting.”
But the veteran seemed to have moved on from his first century in the shortest form of the game. “I am very happy with the hundred. But that's gone now. Tomorrow is a new game and I look forward to some different things.”
Just like youngsters in the team, he is not untouched by Tendulkar's aura. “He gives a lot of confidence to everyone. His sheer presence is enough to motivate everyone, including the youngsters,” said Jayasuriya.
“He always keeps on talking to everyone, discusses cricket at length, comes up with innovative ideas. Obviously, he is very experienced and passes on his experience to the younger generation.”
Even though Jayasuriya is a fan of T20, he signs off with a message for the youngsters who aspire to play the game seriously. “Some of the shots we play, should not be followed. They should play normal cricketing shots at the start of their careers.”