Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Sri Lanka batsman Kumar Sangakkara has admitted that he will find it hard to play Test cricket without his childhood friend, Mahela Jayawardene, who retired from the format today.
Sangakkara and Jayawardene have been the anchors of Sri Lanka’s batting line-up for years now and even hold the record for the largest partnership of 624 runs, which came against South Africa in July 2006.
Jayawardene represented Sri Lanka in 149 Test matches and scored 11,814 runs, which included 34 centuries and 50 half-centuries, at a superb average of 49.84.
“We can’t expect someone to fill Mahela’s shoes in the same way,” Sangakkara was quoted as saying by The Island. “Mahela didn’t play as well as he does now from his first innings. When a new batsman comes in and we’re measuring him and comparing him, it’s not fair to compare him with Mahela. That player has a chance to join the team, play for many years, carve out a standing in the team and maybe in three or four years aim to get the kind of runs and centuries Mahela has.
“You have to give someone that chance. You can’t judge players on one or two days or from five or 10 matches. Our young players are talented and they work hard. When they get that chance, they will make a name for themselves in the future.”
Sangakkara found it hard to describe how he felt now that Jayawardene would not be donning the Test whites for his country ever again. However, he did say Sri Lanka will really start to miss Jayawardene when they play their next Test match since they know they have lost one of the best middle order batsmen and slip fielders the country ever produced.
“It’s hard to say what it’s like,” he said. “What it will be like the next day you play a Test match. I think it will really sink in while you’re in New Zealand. Right now, I think the guys are just coming to terms with the fact that Mahela is going to retire from Test cricket, but I think that all the emotions will come out when we next take the field without him in the ranks. That’s when you can really explain what you feel and you can really take stock of what the team is like and the dressing room atmosphere is like without Mahela in it.”
Sangakkara also made it clear that Jayawardene did not play the game for personal records and to boost his own statistics. Instead, he played every match since he was honoured to represent his country and to help the national team ascend up the rankings in all three formats of the game.
“It just depends on how you feel about it personally,” he said. “People will always say whether you’re 49.85 or 50 or 60 or 70, they will always measure you in different ways. I don’t think it will ever impact what Mahela’s achieved negatively. If you want to say, ‘He’s not there in the club of 50-plus averages’, it doesn’t really matter.
“It’s always been about playing each game as it comes. Many years down the line, he, his children and his family can look back and be very proud of what he’s achieved – whether it’s 49.85 or 50 or 51. It doesn’t really matter.”
Sangakkara added that he was proud of the national team for digging deep and ensuring that they gave Jayawardene the perfect farewell with a 105-run win over Pakistan in Colombo.
Jayawardene scored a lovely 54 in his final innings, but spinner Rangana Herath ended up being named Man of the Match and Man of the Series for taking 23 wickets, including a career-best 9-127 in the first innings of the second Test, at an astounding average of 15.13.
“As a team and a player we knew about Mahela’s retirement but we didn’t want to think only about that,” he said. “To perform as a team, that’s what we spoke about from the first day because if we were to give him a fitting farewell the best thing we could do is to send him off with a win.
“We all know about Mahela…he will be greatly missed by the team in the future. This is what sports is like…sportsmen come and go and others will take over.”