'Challenge has been to evolve' - Jayawardene
After Mahela Jayawardene's final match for Sri Lanka ended in a World Cup quarter-final defeat to South Africa, he said that he would probably be allowing himself a lie-in. Jayawardene and his great friend Kumar Sangakkara were hoping for a glorious swansong in their final World Cup but neither could pull Sri Lanka out of the fire against an irresistible South Africa.
Jayawardene has already called time on his career in Tests and T20 internationals and he said afterwards that he had no regrets about hanging up his blue Sri Lanka shirt for the final time.
"I'll probably wake up a bit late tomorrow for a change," he said. "I will miss it but that's reality, you know that the time is right for you to leave and I've enjoyed every bit of it, it's been great playing with all these guys, had some great friendships - no regrets."
A famously feisty competitor, Jayawardene only managed one significant contribution at the World Cup - but that was a match-winning hundred against Afghanistan to get Sri Lanka up and running in the group stage. Having made his international debut in 1997, Jayawardene has played through a period of huge change in the game - including the introduction of T20 and the rise of video analysis - and he said that he relished the challenge of constantly trying to stay ahead.
"The hardest thing is to evolve with everything, everyday it's something new - teams developing, they always come up with something new, so for you to survive and to keep up with that you need to keep pushing yourself," he said. "I think that's the most important thing, be it mentally, physically, or trying to outsmart someone. That's been the toughest thing.
"I think enjoying that with the group of players in the dressing room, that's the most satisfying thing. Every cricketer loves spending time with his mates and going out playing cricket. The challenge has been to evolve for such a long period. From where I started in 1997, now I'm finished, the cricket has improved drastically."
Asked if he thought standards had risen, he said: "Definitely, if you take the bowlers, the variations - I don't think any of those guys, except for one or two bowlers, had that amount of variations in their armoury. Even the batsmen nowadays play so many different shots, so I think skill-wise the game has evolved. The tactics have changed, field settings have changed, the way people look at the game has changed, more analysing - people know exactly where your strengths and weaknesses are, so I think that has been fantastic."
Sri Lanka had been billed as the knockout specialists who could press South Africa's self-destruct button in Sydney but the nine-wicket margin of victory, with more than 30 overs to spare, told a different story. Jayawardene and Sangakkara had signed off in T20 by leading Sri Lanka to that title last year but there was to be no repeat of the fairytale.
"No, it's been tough, we've had a pretty good campaign so far, but we did pretty much everything wrong today," Jayawardene said. "Credit to the South Africans, they bowled really well up front, put us under pressure and we were not able to cope with that. You can't write your own scripts, we did that in the T20 World Cup but this one was too far for us."