At 39, Sanath Jayasuriya is not an old man after all. If there was any bright spot for Mumbai in the IPL, it was the left-hander’s welcome return to form. At times during the competition, he showed form reminiscent of the 1996 World Cup, when almost everything he struck went out of the park.
Despite a disappointing IPL campaign for Mumbai, Jayasuriya says he looks back at the tournament with satisfaction. “I enjoyed playing in the IPL. I have never represented one city at any point of time, so I was very happy to be a part of the Mumbai franchise. Reliance treated us like their family and we enjoyed everyone’s company,” Jayasuriya told HT.
“It was disappointing to miss out on a semifinal spot despite the way we came back with six wins after losing the initial four,” he added.
Though his performance in the beginning was far from convincing, once Sachin Tendulkar came back to the side, Jayasuriya transformed into his dangerous self. “Earlier on, I got the starts but could not continue. But I knew that once Sachin would come back into the side, I could play my natural game,” he said.
Playing with Tendulkar, Jayasuriya says, was “one of the greatest moments of (his) career”. After all, this was only the second such time the duo batted together after the Princess Diana Charity Match in 1998. “I enjoyed playing with Sachin. He is a great player and it was a tremendous feeling, walking out to bat with him.”
His unbeaten 114 off 48 balls against Chennai not just ensured Mumbai’s brief revival in the competition, but also catapulted him into the Sri Lankan team for the Asia Cup. He was earlier dropped from the ODI side for Sri Lanka’s tour of the Caribbean. “It was disappointing. I had a bad six months. I wasn’t batting well. But I always knew that if I worked hard on my game, the same way I have been for 19 years, I would make it to the team”, he said.
Twenty20, according to public thinking, might be a young man’s game. But with 514 runs in the tournament, at a strike rate of 166.34, Jayasuriya has put those thoughts to rest.
On what keeps him ticking at an age most people would look to hang up their boots, Jayasuriya said, “I know how hard I have worked to get into the Sri Lankan team. I want to keep going as long as possible. I have already retired from Test cricket and I am concentrating on the ODIs and T20s for the moment.”
At a time when Sri Lankan cricket is in transition, Jayasuriya felt that there is enough young talent in the island. “We have the players. Its just that they have to perform in the first-class competitions, for Sri Lanka A and Under-19s to break into the team.”
With India scheduled to tour Sri Lanka in a couple of months, if there is one man Indian bowlers would love to dislodge early, it would have to be Sanath Jayasuriya. He has thus far amassed 2261 runs in the 72 matches against India and there could be more. On why he rates India as his favourite opposition he said, “Even I do not know the reason. But everytime I have gone out to play against India, I have scored runs, particularly hundreds.”
It seems that at 39, his hunger is yet to be satiated.