Mahela Jayawardene will be remembered as one of Sri Lanka's best captains. © AFP
It was 18 years ago. I was sitting in our old couch, a mere 10 year old kid watching TV. (Those were the days I believed that I will never miss a cricket match) There was newly crowned world champions playing out a test match against their closest neighbour at the flattest pitch in the country (SSC was not at all flat those days. Ask Brett Schules and Allan Donald if you don’t believe me.). We were already amassing a monumental score. Then walked in a guy, he was the new kid on the block. (So was I) I thought he looked like Roshan Mahanama because of the way he held his bat. He casually scored a 60 odd out of 952. Little that we knew, that this was a man who will change the history books of Sri Lankan cricket, little that we knew that for next 18 years to come we will cherish this moment and we will be ever thankful that this moment came to be in the space time continuum.
We were children of the war. Whole our childhood we spent hearing the number of dead soldiers. Forget the numbers we were hearing the bombs blast. I still remember seeing the black smoke of the central bank bomb when we were out of our class rooms at the school interval and teachers ushering us back to our classes. (I am ever thankful that my children to be will not be subjected to that)On a time such as that came a World cup and then this man.
We were young and like every other young kid in the world, we needed heroes. Between the corrupt politicians and murdered scholars we had very little to cling onto. May be cricket was the only thing we had, to be truly proud of as a nation. We had found our man in cricket. A leader who will lead by example. A man who will stand by what he believed to be right and a man who will give up anything for his team mates, just like a leader of a nation should be. A true role model who will show us how to be a fighter and a gentleman in what you do. Who will stand by a battered nation and make us proud again to be truly Sri Lankans.
His smile was as graceful as his inside out cover drive which sometimes he casually deposits out of the ground. At 37 years of age he does not look like a man who is ending his career, more to the point he looks like a man who is starting his career with his relentless dives in the field. His runs speaks volumes of his ability and talent, but it does not speak about his unwavering courage at the face of adversity and disappointments; even intentional targeted condemnation.
In another decade or two people will look at his stats and records and say “Wow he was a truly great batsman and a captain”. But all of us who grew up with your cricket would know that you were lot more than that, that you were a torch bearer at a time when we needed you the most.
Dear Mahela, I have not met you or talked to you. I have only seen you on TV or in the cricket field far away. But you have truly touched me. You belong to the cricketers of my generation. I saw your first game and will witness your last game. I am extremely proud I can tell that. You have made us believe again that we should be truly proud to be of the sons of mother Lanka. You will always be more than a cricketer who did things that were amazing in and out of the cricket field. We will truly miss you does not seem good enough, but that is all we have all that you have given us. Thank you for being our HERO when we needed you the most. Denagamage Proboth Mahela de Silva Jayawardene whole of Sri Lanka will be ever thankful for what you have done.