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

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