COLOMBO: Cricketers like Mahela Jayawardene come around very rarely and younger players in the team have a lot to learn from his fighting attitude, Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said on the eve of the veteran batsman’s last test match.
The second test against Pakistan starting today will be an emotional one for Sri Lanka and Jayawardene as the 37-year-old bids farewell to test cricket as one of its prolific run-scorers.
“As we all know, it’s going to be Mahela’s last game. It’s an emotional moment for everyone... we want to win it for him,” Mathews told reporters yesterday.
“When you walk into a game, we want to win all the time, that’s the attitude we take, regardless of what’s happening around. We want to keep our focus and play it for Mahela.
“It will take a long time to replace him because he’s the kind of player that comes around very rarely. We can’t do his service justice with words.
“As a team we’re very sad he’s retiring. The best thing we can do is play well in this match and win it for him.”
Mathews said the team especially the younger players will miss Jayawardene’s presence in the dressing room.
Jayawardene will be playing in his 149th test match, the most by a Sri Lankan cricketer.
“Mahela is a real fighter. If you go into a warm-up match with him, he’ll still try to fight and win. That’s the kind of character he is, he’s an unbelievable player,” Mathews added.
“He puts options on the table and he’s the most senior guy in the team, and we’re going to miss him so much. The younger guys, including me, have learned so much from him.
“Up to now, he has supported me right throughout from day one, and I’m really thankful to him for that,” the Sri Lankan skipper said.
Sri Lanka has won the first test of the two-match series by seven wickets at Galle.
Jayawardene, who has already retired from Twenty20 internationals, will quit the longer format after the Test, even though he will continue playing in one-day matches till next year’s World Cup Down Under.
The elegant right-hander is one of only five batsmen to score more than 11,000 runs in both Test and one-day cricket — the others being Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and team-mate Kumar Sangakkara.
Jayawardene’s farewell Test was originally scheduled to be played at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo before thoughtful officials moved it to the SSC.
Jayawardene’s 2,863 runs in 26 Tests at the SSC are the most by any batsman at a single ground, highlighted by an average of 77.37 there with 11 centuries that include a best of 374 against South Africa in 2006.