I knew that I could bowl well with the tennis ball, but at that time I hadn't even touched a leather ball. I had no idea that I had the ability to be good enough to play for Sri Lanka. That's something that makes me very happy, to see how far I've come.
I met him about ten months after I first started playing leather-ball cricket. Since that day, he has done a lot for me. He has been around the A team, club cricket and the national team, and he has helped me in all those capacities. I knew nothing when I started playing with the leather ball - how to control the ball, how to reverse swing it, how to vary the speeds. Under Champaka sir, I was able to learn all that. I didn't get a lot of opportunity to play school cricket, so the person that helped me get into the national team was Champaka sir.
I used to watch Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram on TV and thought that the yorker was a great ball to bowl. We have a saying that it is better to learn from watching than from hearing. I thought I must learn the thing that I love to watch. The yorker was successful for me, so I thought I would make it even better, and I imagined that a batsman was at the crease and tried to hit his feet.
Definitely I am sad about that. I came into the national team as a Test cricketer. I learnt a lot from playing Tests - how to bowl with the new ball, how to get the better of a batsman once the ball had become old, and it showed me how to always look for wickets. It makes me sad that I can't play Tests anymore because of my injury. I only played 30 Tests, but what I learnt in those matches has helped me get a lot of ODI and T20 wickets.
"I used to watch Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram on TV and thought that the yorker was a great ball to bowl. I thought I must learn the thing that I love to watch"
I picked up this injury in 2008, and that's when I had a long time away from Tests. For three years, no one looked at me for Test selection, no one looked to see how I was bowling. But in 2010, when Murali aiya was retiring, he talked to me and said, "Mali, this is my last match. Do you want to come and play another Test with me?" I respect Murali aiya a lot, and no one can ever say a bad thing about him, so I thought, "Even if this is my last Test as well, even if I break my leg playing it, it doesn't matter." In three years I hadn't even played a two-day match. But still, I was able to be the Man of the Match, by taking seven wickets and making 64 runs, and Murali aiya got to take his 800th wicket.
I loved playing Tests because you get the chance to bowl so much. In ODIs it's only ten overs and in T20s it's four, but in Tests you can bowl 20-25 overs a day. Because of that, in Tests you gain a lot of experience, and learn what to do in specific situations. How should you bowl with the new ball in the morning? How should you bowl in the afternoon when it's hot? How to bowl at the end of the day? But I can't do that anymore, and there's no point dwelling on the past. I can only play well in whatever formats I can still play in.
I'm 29 now. I think I will only have three or four more years to play. I think going back to Tests now would be very difficult. I've been away from Tests for one and a half or two years. I have 100 Test wickets now, and I feel like if I were to play again, I would want to get to at least 150 wickets. To do that I would have to play at least ten or 15 Tests, and I don't think I can do that, given how bad my injury is. I think it's much better for the team if a new bowler comes through and plays three or four years at a stretch than if I play for just a few.
I didn't do anything different. I played under Mahela and Sanga and they gave me the freedom to be myself and bowl the way I thought was best. In the first three finals I was good, but in the last final I couldn't bowl well. I think I was a big reason why we lost. I felt helpless and couldn't do anything for the team. But I was glad I was able to take five wickets against England in the Super Eights and bowl a good Super Over against New Zealand. I'm very sad about the final, and what I couldn't do there. But at least I've been able to play in four finals.
I don't talk a lot about cricket with Kumar - not that I totally don't, but not often. But I'm always talking about cricket with Mahela. We talk about how I should bowl when a batsman is playing in a certain way, what balls to bowl in certain conditions, and he has had a lot of input and influence on how I play. We talk cricket all the time.
I have never done that. I only played in the IPL after I stopped playing Tests. I haven't neglected any limited-overs matches for Sri Lanka because of the IPL. As long as I am playing cricket, I am always ready to play ODI and T20 cricket for Sri Lanka.
As a cricketer, you have a shelf life. You sacrifice your education and any other line of work to play cricket. The best cricketers might play for ten or 15 years; others might have only five or six years at the top. You don't know at what time you will be injured or at what time you will lose form, and how long you will stay in the team. I think in that short time that you have, you have to do the best for your team and do everything you want to. After you leave cricket, no one cares about you. I've seen that happen to former cricketers. I know that that will happen to me as well. So I just want to play as well as I can when I can do it, and one day be able to reflect on the number of wickets I've taken for my country, and the number of wins I've been able to deliver.
It hasn't just affected me, it has hurt a lot of Asian bowlers who rely on reverse swing. It's much more difficult to take wickets at the death now. I really hope that that rule is reversed and that we get one ball per innings. There would be some kind of justice for bowlers if that happened.
"If I were to play Tests again, I would want to get to at least 150 wickets. To do that I would have to play at least ten or 15 Tests, and I don't think I can do that"
Yes, I haven't been able to bowl my yorkers as well as I want in both international cricket and in the IPL, and I haven't been able to get as many wickets. I think because I've been playing non-stop for so long, I'm physically drained. I've played in every match that I was fit for. I need to take some time out and re-energise, and I hope that I can return to where I was.
I guess batsmen know the deliveries I bowl, because they've analysed me on video, just like we do to other bowlers and batsmen. That is the nature of the game now. There are new rule changes as well, and I can only be successful if I adapt and handle pressure well. I think in future bowlers will be under more and more pressure.
Some people look at me in a bad light and say those things, but I don't think you can look at the wickets I've taken for Sri Lanka and be justified in saying that. They say I only play well for money, but I've set four world records playing for my country. If I was just playing for money, I should have achieved those things in the IPL. I've taken three hat-tricks for Sri Lanka. All those things I've done playing for Sri Lanka. I have taken 200 ODI wickets for Sri Lanka, and I'm the fastest Sri Lankan to have reached that milestone. In 30 Tests, I have taken 101 wickets. There again, I am the fastest Sri Lankan. If those people look at what I have done properly, they will be able to see what my motivation has been.
I'm hoping to take 100 wickets in T20s, and if I can play long enough, to take 300 wickets in ODIs. Most of all, I just want to take my team to as many victories as possible for as long as I can.
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka