Mahela Jayawardene’s unbeaten 103 in WC 2011 final was a knock any of the Indian batting heavyweights would be proud to have played. The Sri Lankan maestro finished on the losing side for the second consecutive WC decider in a row.
In these times when heavy bats, muscular shoulders have lend a coarse brutality to batting, he looks out of place with accent on timing, placement and soft hands. Sri Lankan captain in 2007 World Cup final, which was won by Australia, he was vice-captain in 2011 WC and lived up to expectations as a class act, yet will go home with an empty feeling.
For those present at Wankhede Stadium to watch him go about his business of accumulating runs, rivals and cricket watchers, the feeling was similar to viewing a classic movie in this age of stunt-a-minute thrillers.
The Lankan number three got into an argument with curator Sudhir Naik on match eve, yet the former’s batsmanship made the former India Test opener rewind memories of Gundappa Viswanath and Mohd. Azharuddin at the crease. “It was like watching Viswanath get on top of bowling, or Azharuddin mock at field placings. We don’t realise how quickly batsmen like them accumulate runs.”
Naik had refused Jayawardene access to the 2011 WC final pitch on Friday, sparking off almost a slanging match. “He wanted to inspect the pitch, I told him only team captains have permission (Kumar Sangakkara was Lanka captain),” said the curator, irritated when the Lankan dragged Sachin Tendulkar’s name into the argument. “I told him Tendulkar is a disciplined cricketer who understands and obeys rules.”
Lanka played out 50 overs, India’s chase under lights stretched to 48.2 overs before MS Dhoni exploded into action with a powerful heave into long-on to signal victory. “The final went off well in all aspects, the wicket played true and outfield allowed Indian fielders to showcase diving skills along the ropes. Tendulkar was batting beautifully till he got out, MS Dhoni’s innings was amazing.”
Naik trotted to the Indian dressing room afterwards, met Dhoni and caught up with Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan. “I shook hands, hugged them and then left the place. The dressing room is their space and Saturday was their day to celebrate,” said the curator, tired but satisfied for having done his part in India’s World Cup show. India’s title win over Sri Lanka has enough memories to last a lifetime.
Keywords: 2011 cricket world cup