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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

'I can't think of life without cricket'

At 39, his contemporaries are long gone but Jayasuriya, still feared by bowlers the world over, is as passionate about the game as a fledgling. Read more...

india Updated: Aug 16, 2008 11:11 IST
Rex Clementine
Rex Clementine

It will be 19 years of cricket for Sri Lankan batting stalwart Sanath Jayasuriya in December. At 39, his contemporaries are long gone but Jayasuriya, still feared by bowlers the world over, is as passionate about the game as a fledgling. The opener says it is the pride to represent his country that keeps him going.

"When I was growing up I only wanted to do one thing and that was to play for my country. I have come a long way since playing my first game, which was at the MCG of all places. I have had the honour of captaining my country and I just can't think of a life without cricket," Jayasuriya said in an interview to IANS.

"A lot of people ask me for how long I will continue. I say I don't know. It all depends on my fitness and whether I am still good enough to play for Sri Lanka. The day I feel I haven't got it any more in me I will quit."

After hanging his gloves in the longer version of the game in December last year, Jayasuriya made his last Test match a memorable one by hammering six successive boundaries in an over by James Anderson as he scored a thrilling 78 in the last innings.

However, he was soon dropped from the one-day side after averaging around 15 in his last 20 innings since the World Cup final in April last year, with selectors focusing more on the next edition.

But the explosive batsman made a strong statement with his performance towards the latter part of the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he represented Mumbai Indians. He earned a well-deserved call for the Asia Cup.

Sri Lanka went on to win the Asia Cup and Jayasuriya's blitzkrieg capped him as the highest run-getter in the six-nation tournament. His statistics in the tournament were hard to ignore as he averaged 75.60 and had a strike rate of 126.00, scoring two hundreds and one fifty.

"There were a few things that I worked on after the Australian series early this year. It was the off-season and there were no domestic competitions, so I had a few sessions with the bowling machine and worked ever so harder on my physical fitness," he said.

His rich experience in cricket helped him take failure with poise as he worked his way to the side.

"When you are going through a bad patch, it's very important not to panic. There are so many factors that contribute to poor form and you just need to patiently work on them and the important thing is to revert to basics," Jayasuriya said.

"I regained my touch towards the end of the IPL and was happy to be part of the Asia Cup squad. It was a pleasant experience to win the tournament in Pakistan. We hadn't won any major competition in Pakistan since winning the World Cup," Jayasuriya remarked.

The left-hander says he is now looking forward to the upcoming five-match series against India that starts Monday.

When asked what went wrong with the Indians in the Tests, Jayasuriya admitted being lost for words.

"It's hard to understand. They are such a strong batting side, for me the best in the world without any doubt. But Sri Lanka gave India no chance. They kept the pressure on and it's not easy when Ajantha (Mendis) and Murali bowl in tandem. I thought Sri Lanka had a good plan, which they executed to perfection. There was someone to rise to the occasion at every crucial point."

"But I am sure they (Indians) will bounce back. Sachin is a class act, Rahul and Sourav are quality players. The point is when you are having such a long career, like they have had, you are bound to have a poor series. It happens to all players in the world, but the problem here was all three of them struggled at the same time," Jayasuriya added.

The veteran also showered praise on young spinner Mendis who finished the Test series with a world record of 26 wickets.

"I am really happy for what Ajantha has done. He's come up the hard way and his rise to stardom is something of a fairy tale. He's a quiet kind of chap, who wants to keep improving. I have a particular liking for blokes who are the first to practice and the last to leave and Mendis is something similar. When you play at this level you need to keep working harder and improve your game every day," Jayasuriya said.