The first half of this year was perhaps the most forgettable in Sanath Jayasuriya’s career. First, he had to take the rather tough decision to quit Test cricket and focus only on the one-dayers.
With a change of guard in the selection committee, he decided to withdraw his retirement, though the way he was treated on the tour of England was not what someone of his stature deserved. Still, the 37-year old from a Matara fishing colony remains remarkably humble. And that came across in Lanka's highest Test and ODI run getter's exclusive chat with HT on Saturday.
At 37, how do you keep motivating yourself?
I think physical fitness is the key and the desire to perform at that level. I always do my very best to stay fit and at the same time, try to perform whenever I get the opportunity.
Do you do extra to compete with youngsters?
Not really. I have not changed my routine drastically. All my life, I have been doing what the physios and trainers say and strictly follow the diet programme and the training programmes. The last year has been a roller-coaster ride… Actually, what happened two months or so ago was really bad. Things did not go my way. It was really disappointing. Things have changed since the tour of England. It was not easy for me to go to England and perform straightaway. But I think I handled it really well, given all that pressure and the criticism. It was really bad then but now I am enjoying.
Was the original decision to quit Test cricket a personal one?
The meeting I had with the selectors (Lalith Kaluperama and Co.) was not great. A player may not always perform and everybody goes through patches. So, when I was not performing, they worried about my form and wanted me to concentrate on one-day cricket, something I did not like as I wanted to play both versions. I decided to retire from Tests and go away. The other selection committee (with Asantha de Mel as chairman) was different. They believed I could give 100 per cent. They asked to change my mind and I said 'Yes'.
Did you feel betrayed by the England treatment?
These things happen in this part of the world. I don't have regrets. People will realise that politics will not help cricket and cricket will go on. I think cricket comes first and is now moving in the right direction. It has paid off since I came on, I performed well and the team is also doing well.
Do Board politics disturb a player’s mindset?
Not really. We aren’t worried at all. That's not our business. We are worried about our cricket, how to perform, how to win a series. We don't involve ourselves in administration.
Was it tough to endure the bad run in England?
It was really hard. I was not in the original team and wasn’t picked for the first three practice games or the second Test. My job was to go there, be with the team, train and whenever I got the opportunity, play for my country. I got my chance in the third Test and said yes when I was asked if I would bat in the middle. I did my part, not with the bat but with the ball and supported Murali.
Do you see something wrong with the way seniors in Asia are treated towards the end of their careers? Yourself, Sourav Ganguly…
It all depends on how the player is performing and how fit he is. But the way seniors are handled towards the end of their careers, depends on how the administrators. It varies from country to country.
In the near future, many stars will be quitting the scene. Yourself, Tendulkar, Warne, McGrath… How do you look at it?
It's part of the game. Everyone has to retire one day. I have realised that. But one day, the next generation has to come in and perform.
We want to see more Warnes and Tendulkars. Do you see a mirror image of yourself in Sehwag?
He is a different type of a player with his hand-eye coordination. He has a unique way of playing. I am different to Sehwag, Sehwag is different to Sachin.
How do you want to be remembered?
It all depends on the public. I don't know. People will realise one day what I did for my country and cricket. That's something that I cannot judge. People will.
How was it watching your highest Test record partnership being rewritten by Jayawardene and Sangakkara from the dressing room?
I never played for records and always loved it when somebody broke them. I think that was a great moment in my life, records are always meant to be broken.
What does it mean to be captained now?
Nothing. I have been playing with these players and I have also captained them. I enjoyed playing under Arjuna, Aravinda (de Silva), Hashan (Tillekaratne) and even Marvan (Atapattu). It is not a big deal as long as you perform and the team wants you in the middle.