On April 2nd 2011, I stood as a twelve year old in front of the television watching a cricketer reach a brilliant hundred. With hardly any knowledge of the game at the time, I knew only the obvious facts; Sri Lanka were playing India in a World Cup final and this guy had put us in a good position. Four years later, an ardent cricket fan, the thought of saying goodbye to this cricketer is agonizing.
Mahela Jayawardena has now been for four years, my favourite cricketer. He is the only explanation I have for why, that night as a girl who couldn't care less about cricket, I still had tears streaming down my face when we ultimately lost that match. He is also the reason for the transformation that overcame me that night. I learnt the rules, the stats, the history, the quirky facts and the records almost overnight. Mahela was at the center of my love for the game. As a kid who grew up in a country terrorized by war, cricket was a novel concept. Something distant from the haunting memories of bombs, gun shots and blood baths. It gave me and most of the country a new sense of hope and happiness.
I am not writing this to laud Mahela's batting. I am not going to quote his statistics. His records are available to everyone and it is his business not mine to create a good impression. I am simply explaining what he has meant to me. The entire cricket team is obviously important to me as to any fan but Mahela has held a top spot. Unlike Sangakkara, Mahela's star studded best friend, Mahela has always been to me more real and human. Sanga with his air of perfectness seems almost unreal at times. Mahela with his shaky flaws and sublime strokes is more my kind of hero.
Mahela unknowingly changed me from a total cricket ignorant to can't-get-enough-of-this fan. And cricket in turn has changed my life. It has taught me so much about the highs and lows of life. It has shown me that no matter how hard life gets thare is a silver lining. I have learnt, through watching Mahela alone, that disappointments are stepping stones for victory. Mahela and cricket made some difficult teen years all the more bearable.
Last year at the world T20 final, I once again had tears running down my face but this time for quite a different reason. They had done and I felt like I had too. That picture of Mahela grinning as he holds the cup, hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates will stay with me for ever.
Now knowing that he will retire in just a few weeks more I regret all the years I missed out on watching cricket's Da Vinchi. Mahela and I are not of the same generation-he made his debut before I was even born- , I have never met nor talked to Mahela but he has played a part in my life. A huge part. That cheeky smile, the hard faced determination, the twinkling eyes, the committed stride and well mannered words will all be greatly missed.
The past four years have been an amazing journey. And I know that my obsession with cricket will move forwards even without Mahela. As he bids goodbye, I have no way of thanking him for what he has done. I can only hope he reads this. Especially the last line.
Thanks Maiya. It's been one hell of a ride.