Dhaka: Sri Lanka's vice-captain Mahela Jayawardena has come through the ranks. Associated with the best cricketing set up in Sri Lanka, Jayawardena carries forward the hope of the young Sri Lankans.
"I have grown up watching Aravinda De Silva bat. I can watch him for hours," Jayawardena said in an exclusive interview. The following is an excerpt of the interview.
Don't you think your rise to the top has been meteoric?
I started playing cricket when I was seven. My father admitted me to a school where Mr Lionel Mendis was the coach. Mr Mendis was also the coach of the Sri Lankan junior team.
I have since then risen through the ranks - school cricket, under-13, under-15, under-19, Sri Lanka 'A' and then the senior side. You can, however, say that I have graduated very quickly.
You started off as an all-rounder, isn't it?
I began my career as a fast bowler who could also bat. I used to open the bowling in school and bat one-down. Gradually, as I moved up the rank, I realised I could not do justice to both aspects of my game.
It was then I decided to concentrate on my batting. I can still bowl a few overs of medium pace, getting the ball to cut both ways.
Would you say joining the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) was the turning point in your career?
It was certainly a big step forward. I was just 19. The facilities at the SSC were excellent. The pitches were lively and the ball came on to the bat.
It suited my style of batting. I haven't looked back since then.
Did playing for the same club as Arjuna Ranatunga help?
The best thing about Arjuna is that he knows how to handle individual players. He would put pressure on juniors and give them specific responsibilities in club games so that we could handle pressure at the highest level.
As a batsman, are you comfortable with both forms of the game?
I prefer Tests, but that doesn't mean I can't handle the hustle and bustle of One-day cricket. I did struggle to keep my place in the One-day side, but a century against England in Australia in 1999 changed that.
You made your debut against India in 1997 in the same Test where SriLanka recorded an epic 952 runs, do you regret missing out on the run feast?
I made 66 in that innings. I thought I did well for someone making his debut and I am proud to be a member of that historic XI. What a knock Sanath and Roshan played. We thought they would never get out.
Why do batsmen from the sub-continent struggle when they go abroad?
I think it is because of the bounce. Pitches in this part of the world don't have much life, so you have to wait for the ball to come on to the bat.
Stroke-players like myself love it when the ball comes on to the bat, which is the case abroad. You have only got to watch out for the balls that bounce awkwardly.