Mahela Jayawardene's glowing tribute to the retiring Kumar Sangakkara
Former Sri Lankan cricketer Mahela Jayawardene has paid a glowing tribute to his long-time teammate Kumar Sangakkara, ESPNCricinfo reports. Jayawardene talked at length about the 37-year-old, who will be retiring from international cricket after the second Test against India which begins in Colombo on Thursday, recalling his best innings’, their moments together as well as sharing some of the lighter bits about Sri Lanka’s best batsman in history.
Jayawardene and Sangakkara have been the pillars of strength for the Sri Lankan middle order for more than a decade forging many partnerships on the field as well as off it. Their friendship dates back to when the duo were in their mid teens and Jayawardene spoke about his first impression of his close friend.
“I don't think he had direction when he started playing for Trinity College, in the under-15s and under 17s when I played against him for the first time,” he said. “He had talent, but he came off sometimes and other times he didn't. He was still probably hoping to play tennis and also running after Yehali,” Jayawardene said referring to his girlfriend whom Sangakkara later married.
“With Sanga the thing is that once he is prepared and has a gameplan, he's so methodical. It's sometimes frightening how serious he is.”
Sangakkara’s memorable knocks
Sangakkara has played a number of memorable knocks for his national team over the years, but Jayawardene mentioned some of the innings which are his personal favourites.
Sangakkara’s first six Tests came against South Africa and Jayawardene stated that his valiant 98 (215 balls) in the second innings of the third and final Test in Sri Lanka’s tour to the African nation as the one in which he truly announced his arrival. Though the visitors lost the match, Jayawardene was impressed by his teammate’s resilience.
“That knock in South Africa - that first 90-odd he scored - really gave him the confidence to know that he belonged,” he said.
Jayawardene rated Sangakkara’s knock of 192 against Australia at the end of 2007 as one which marked him “as a special player.” Despite conceding a mammoth first innings lead of 296 runs, that knock allowed the visitors to reach within 92 runs of the target set by the Aussies.
“One of the special ones was the hundred he scored against Australia in Hobart when we almost won that game from nowhere,” he said, before commenting on what made Sangakkara a truly unique batsman.
“He's always batted in tough conditions quite well. In Pakistan on a few occasions he has batted through. Whenever the conditions are tough, he always found a different gear. There were quite a lot of times when he bailed me out and bailed a lot of other guys out by seeing the tough bowlers out. It's a crucial position that he batted in for almost 15 years.”
Jayawardene opens up on his bond with Sangakkara
The pair have tormented many a team with their batting throughout their career and holds the world record partnership in Test cricket, a stand of 624 against the Proteas in 2007. Jayawardene opened up on what made their bond so strong.
“We do put bowling attacks under pressure together and feed off each other. Because of that we've probably scored more runs. We understand each other's roles, and because of that we've probably scored more runs together, having batted together for a long period of time” he said.
“You feel very confident because you know there is someone to look after your interests and back you to the hilt. You also know that he's not going to be a yes-man to me, and will always point out the wrong things that I do. We've both been open about it. It's also a lot of fun. We have interests on and off the field and are very competitive, so that's helped us grow as a partnership. For you to be part of a team for such a long time, you need someone like that. We've both enjoyed the company.”
Sangakkara’s unknown side
Jayawardene also shed light on some of the lighter moments associated with Sangakkara.
“He was definitely a nerd in the dressing room. He knows all, so he'll contribute to every conversation whether he's right or wrong,” he said. “It was quite funny when he goes after Murali because Murali knows everything as well. These two would go at each other about different stuff - politics and stuff that happens around the world. That's his personality. You can always have a good conversation, and he won't give up an argument.”
“He was studying for law and he still hasn't graduated, but he was practising that in the dressing room quite a lot. It was good fun. He fitted in well,” Jayawardene said before adding that the opposition also got a taste of it at times.
“Sanga fights for the team whether it's right or wrong. The lawyer in him comes out. If he says a wall is black, the wall will be black whether it's blue or white. That's Sanga for you.”
Jayawardene also mentioned about Sangakkara’s ‘strong accent’ that was a constant talking point in the Sri Lankan dressing room.
“We've all made fun of his accent. When he's in Sri Lanka talking to us, it's not like that at all. But as soon as he goes to England, Australia or somewhere else and starts speaking to someone, that strong accent comes out,” he quipped.
Jayawardene also revealed that Sangakkara hardly used to be on time.
“I've made fun of the fact that he's got all these expensive watches but can't be on time. Whenever I ask him to come to something I tell him it's half-an-hour earlier than it is. Then he rocks up 10 minutes late rather than 40 minutes late,” he said.