'It hurts most when your people turn against you'
More than five and a half months after the event, Sanath Jayasuriya still struggles to hide his disappointment. He attempts to put on a brave, philosophical face, but it is obvious that being left out of the team for the World Cup still rankles the 42-year-old.
“It was disappointing not to play in this World Cup,” Jayasuriya concedes in a chat. “People like the then chairman (Aravinda de Silva) said the team picked for the competition was the best team that could have been selected. Yes, I am disappointed personally for not having played in the World Cup, and I know it was very disappointing for the Sri Lankan people when the team lost in the final.
“At the interval, we all felt the team had a great chance of winning the title. When you have 270 on the board in a Cup final, it is as good as having the game in your hand. But I don’t think the defence of that total was planned properly, and I feel the bowlers were not used properly.”
Does he think he would have made a difference, with his vast experience, in a game as crucial as a World Cup final? “You can never say with any certainty exactly what would have happened,” he laughs. “But whenever I have got the opportunity, I have always done my best…”
Jayasuriya eventually called time on his international career a couple of months back, afforded a farewell in the limited-overs series in England. “It was a bit tough,” he recalls of the walk back to the pavilion after his last day in international cricket. “To have played 20 years of cricket and then to call it quits, it is a bit tough. But that is a reality you need to face some day. I took the decision to retire, and I have taken it in the right spirit.”
The destructive left-hander admits to a few regrets, and while he does throw up a few hints, he refrains from targeting individuals. “When you play as long as I have done, definitely there will be a few things that will not go your way,” he offers, measuring his words with great care. “What hurts most is when your own people turn against you.
“These are the people you have played with for a long time. Sometimes, when people who you have played with hit you in a different way, it becomes hard to digest. They have their own articles to write, and if they have something to say about you, they don’t do it straight up but go in a roundabout way in their criticism. That hurts. That’s something I will never do. But I have played enough and been around long enough to be able to take it in my stride. I feel if you want to make a point, come out in the open and make it directly,” he continues, leaving no one in any doubt which current players he is talking about though he pointedly chooses not to come up with names.
Jayasuriya says he hasn’t found juggling his multiple roles of a politician, a businessman, a commentator and an occasional cricketer difficult at all. “You can manage all these if you want to, and if you have a plan,” he shoots back. “I have some kind of a plan, and that makes it easy for me. I am very happy that I do a bit of everything.”