Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 2nd Test, SSC, 5th day August 18, 2014

Emotional Mahela remembers the good times


"It's been an emotional day but I promise I won't cry," were Mahela Jayawardene's first words when he took the podium following his final Test. His voice cracked on occasion. Sadness was writ on his face. But most memories of his final day in Tests will be happy ones. Sri Lanka had swept the series "for Mahela", fans had shown up in force, and the institutions that had helped make him - Nalanda College and SSC - were present in numbers to celebrate his final moments as a Test cricketer.

Jayawardene thanked his school and club following the match, as well as Sri Lanka Cricket, team-mates, family members and fans. He spoke lightheartedly about not pursuing a life in politics following retirement, largely because his wife would kick him out if he did. He joked about his tussles with media and the board over the years as well.

But his most sentimental words were about the fans who have supported him, and the faded Sri Lanka cap that has been his companion for 15 years. "My most valued day in Tests is the day I got my cap," Jayawardene said. "To walk into that dressing room and be with that group of players on Test debut, and to receive my cap from captain Arjuna Ranatunga, with all the other guys being there - it was probably the best day in my life, and something I will never forget.

"I've stitched up this cap and managed to wear it for a long time. It's been with me for almost 15 years now - the first few years we had a different cap. It will go in my trophy cabinet, right at the top. I've already planned that. You can't even touch Sanga's cap, it's in such a bad state, but he still plays with it. I feel very honoured to wear it. It's not easy to let it go, but there will be a lot of young talent waiting to wear this cap, and that's a great thing. I'm still wearing it on my head, because it's the last time I can do that."

Among the highlights of Jayawardene's Test career are his 19 century stands with close friend Kumar Sangakkara. In their last partnership, they made 107 to help set up a competitive target for Pakistan. Sangakkara was dismissed first, hitting Saeed Ajmal to short leg.

"I really value my friendship with Kumar. It's something that has been built over a long time. When we play together, we've done it with a lot of enjoyment. In that last innings, when Sanga got out, I did feel quite sad. That was our last innings in Tests. But we both know that we've only got a short time left in the game. I'm very happy that I got to play with him for such a long time. Out of players that I've seen over the past six years, he's the no. 1 batsman. As a friend I'm so proud of what he has achieved."

Jayawardene said the away Test victories - particularly the recent win at Headingley, and the victory in Durban in 2012 - were the sweetest of his career. Although he allowed his average to slip below 50 in his final Test, the team's victory was more important, he said.

"Coming into this game, I was pretty determined to try and keep my average up over 50 - that was one of my challenges. Unfortunately it didn't happen. I can't lament on that, and it's not something that I will lose sleep on."

Jayawardene has been an advocate for developing young talent in the latter half of his career, and suggested he would be keen to work with players in the Sri Lanka school cricket system, of which he had been a successful product. Several Sri Lanka players now vie to replace him in the XI, but whoever takes his place must be given time and trust in order to succeed, Jayawardene said.

"If you take a player like Angelo Mathews, he has been able to play six or so years, and now he's successful. Some players can have ups and downs, but we need to be patient with them. Some players maybe haven't coped mentally, but they have time to correct those things. We have a lot of faith in the players that are there now, and that's why we give them a lot of encouragement."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Surath on August 21, 2014, 6:07 GMT

    Thank you Mahela! Great sportsman and a greater human being.

  • Dummy4 on August 20, 2014, 3:45 GMT

    Sad day for Cricket...the batting maestro with a silken touch bids adieu...!!!

  • krithivasan on August 19, 2014, 14:51 GMT

    Thanks mahela!!! I have been so critical on you since you have not achived much in the alien conditions but know the respect that you have am really saluting your calibre!!! Such a great man...indian fan

  • Android on August 19, 2014, 11:12 GMT

    18th August 2014 Life goes on, people come and go. We're happy when they come, sad when they leave. LEGENDS (People who means something to us) - Rare species, they don't come always, they come into our lives, finds a place in our heart where they will be forever, they are the people who will make us happy, make us smile, make us proud. Even when they leave, they NEVER leave our hearts, because that's how special they are to us. Mahela Jayawardena - You are one (LEGEND). You're immortal. Your legacy will live on, I promise. The things you did for the country, the things you did for us, the smiles you gave, tears of joy you gave us, WE OWE YOU !!! You are the best captain I have seen, the way you guide our team, it's just amazing, it's like you are dragging them forward, it's like you're carrying those 10 men on your shoulders and the rest of 20 million watching. You're always positive in tough situation, you just want to win no matter what comes your way.... (I cnt wrt mr, nly 1000 wrds

  • Anthony on August 19, 2014, 10:40 GMT

    What a great servant of Sri Lankan Cricket! A joy to watch from his early teenage age to his retirement from Tests yesterday. A brilliant batsman and an astute captain with no comparison. A great partner, teammate and friend to Sangakkara. A mentor, inspiration and guide to his younger colleagues. In today's Daily Telegraph, the former cricketer and now writer Steve James makes this tribute, an extract of which I reproduce to sum up Mahela's prowess at the art of batting. "It is without hesitation that I declare him the most elegant batsman I have seen in my time playing and watching the game". And he heads the article "Oh, to have batted like cricket's Adonis". What a tribute (or epitaph, although not on a tombstone) to one of Sri Lanka's and the World's greatest cricketers.

  • Dummy4 on August 19, 2014, 8:59 GMT

    Sri Lanka cricket will do well not to loose such a great national treasure, they could appoint him as the team mentor, that way he will remain with the team as a non-playing member, get involved in team meetings and motivation exercises, he could also continue to offer guidance to Angelo and the team. Over to you Upali Dharmadasa.

  • Surath on August 19, 2014, 8:13 GMT

    @ Malik_Murad: You can say that again and again and again and again and AGAIN....

  • Prbath on August 19, 2014, 7:48 GMT

    @deadite11 o, Dreams are free mate, keep dreaming

  • Malik on August 19, 2014, 7:47 GMT

    The best part of Mahela is that despite of his great performances, he is still down to earth and very humble. Great Man!

  • Android on August 19, 2014, 6:51 GMT

    Outstanding professional. Played with all class and none of that ego that surrounds so many others.. Will miss you Mahela. not many left like you.

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