Jayawardene set to say farewell

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Published: Monday 15th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Mahela Jayawardene will say goodbye to supporters in Colombo by making sure he enjoys himself, as he always has on a cricket pitch.

Jayawardene, one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation and alongside Kumar Sangakkara a pillar of Sri Lanka’s middle and top order throughout his 17-year career, is to retire after this winter’s World Cup.

The 37-year-old’s 434th one-day international, against England at the Premadasa Stadium on Tuesday, will be his last on home soil and in his native city.

Sangakkara, who may play on in Tests only after Sri Lanka’s campaign in the global tournament in Australia and New Zealand, signed off in his final ODI on his home ground at Pallekele on Saturday with a match-winning century to seal the series against England.

Jayawardene, of course, would love to follow suit.

But most of all, he is determined to play the game as he always has – with style, and a smile on his face.

Asked for his favourite recollections of an international career which has so far brought him more than 25,000 runs across the formats, he said: “I think the best memories will be the fans, the music, the rhythm.

“I grew up with that, playing for my school, always had it when we played the big matches.

“To finish it off in that same rhythm, you can’t ask for anything else.”

Jayawardene believes the same joyful crowd involvement is the essence of his sport in his country.

“That’s the uniqueness about Sri Lankan cricket. That is the flair we grew up playing with,” he said.

“That is what we’ve managed to improve on. We haven’t gone away from that flair, just kept on improving it.

“What we would like to leave for the next generation is that challenge to keep doing that.”

Sri Lanka is a country of cricket enthusiasts, and for that he is forever grateful.

“The fans have been fantastic,” he said.

“We’ve probably got the best – they do criticise us, but it is with a good heart.

“They don’t go overboard. They know it’s just a game, and they keep turning up whether we do well or not, and they’re always behind us.

“To say thank you tomorrow will be a great, great honour.”

Sri Lanka have already clinched the series, after their 90-run win at the weekend gave them an unassailable 4-2 lead with just the final ODI to play.

Jayawardene prizes another victory above a farewell century.

“I just want to go out and enjoy myself. That’s what I’ve done throughout my career, and it won’t change just because I’m playing my last game (here),” he added.

“We have already wrapped up the series, so there is less pressure on all of us, but we want to finish on a high.

“It’s important we keep winning … a good habit to have.”

His preference will be to open again, as he did two days ago, but he will be happy too if asked to drop down again into his more accustomed middle-order role.

Wherever he bats, he will inevitably have to deal with heightened emotions.

“It probably will get to me at some point – I hope not during the game,” he said.

“But having prepared for this, I think I know where I am mentally.

“When I retired from Test cricket, that game was very emotional for me – that last Test match.

“Knowing I still have the World Cup to play, I don’t think this game will be that emotional.

“But playing in front of your home fans for the last time, there might be a bit.”

Published: Monday 15th December 2014 by The News Editor

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