• Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On a high Jayawardene goes out

Afp, Colombo
Retiring Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene holds his daughter Sansana as his wife Christina Sirisena looks on during the post-match ceremony at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground in Colombo yesterday. PHOTO: AFP
Retiring Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene holds his daughter Sansana as his wife Christina Sirisena looks on during the post-match ceremony at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground in Colombo yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

Mahela Jayawardene Monday said a "gut feeling" prompted him to quit Test cricket as he turned his attention to one last World Cup campaign after near-misses in 2007 and 2011.

"Players come and go, but the game continues," the 37-year-old said, after ending a 17-year Test career in which he became one of the great batsmen of modern times.

Jayawardene was hoisted onto his teammates' shoulders and warmly congratulated by Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse, who was among the 4,000 home fans who turned up to bid goodbye, after ending his Test career at Colombo's Sinhalese Sports Club stadium.

"I don't know what to say, but I promise I won't cry," Jayawardene said at the presentation ceremony as firecrackers went off in the stands.

"I love you all. Thank you so much for the support all these years. I still have a little bit left and I promise I'll give it my all for the World Cup.

"Thanks also to my teammates. It's been great to play for Sri Lanka for so many years. I have always worn this cap with pride and passion."

The elegant right-hander is one of only five batsmen to score more than 11,000 runs in both Test and one-day cricket -- the others being Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and teammate Kumar Sangakkara.

It was a fitting place for his farewell after he shared in a record 624 Test partnership with Sangakkara there in 2006 and amassed 2,921 Test runs at the venue -- the most by any batsman at a single ground.

Jayawardene, who retired from Twenty20 Internationals after Sri Lanka became world champions in April, said he would concentrate on one-day matches until next year's World Cup.

"I am not sure I will be selected for the World Cup, but I will focus on one-day cricket," said Jayawardene ahead of the one-day series against Pakistan starting this week.

The batsman added that he felt he had quit at the right time despite still showing good form with the bat.

"I took the decision to retire after a lot of serious thought," he said. "I was fortunate to have played for 17 years so it was not an easy decision to make.

"But I think the time was right to go. It was a gut feeling and I have always gone by my gut feelings in the past."

Jayawardene finished with 11,814 runs in 149 Tests with 34 centuries, but his average dropped from 50.02 to 49.84 after making four and 54 in his final Test against Pakistan.

Jayawardene said retiring one Test short of his 150th appearance did not matter to him. He also said he was not interested in becoming a coach.

"To be a coach, one needs a lot of commitment and I don't think I have the patience for that... But I will continue to guide young players because they are the future of the game in the country," he said.

One of the sharpest fielders close to the wicket, Jayawardene's 205 Test catches are second only to Indian Rahul Dravid's tally of 210 by a fielder other than a wicketkeeper.

Published: 12:01 am Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Last modified: 9:59 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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