April 09, 2008 17:10 IST
Former Sri Lanka opener Sanath Jayasuriya, currently out of the country's limited-overs' side, is eager to make a mark for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, staring April 18, and stake claim for a berth in the national team.
"I am looking forward to playing in the tournament and helping Mumbai Indians win the title. It will be a great thing in my career to open with Sachin (Tendulkar), the best player in the world. I am really happy to open with him," said Jayasuriya, in a teleconference from Sri Lanka.
"I met up with him in Hobart during the one-day series in Australia and discussed the IPL. I always love to play for my country, but this is different, with all teams having a mixture of players from various countries. I will give my best for Mumbai," said the former Sri Lanka captain.
Saying the Mumbai squad is strong, he pointed out that apart from himself and Tendulkar, the team has retired South African all-rounder Shaun Pollock , Dilhara Fernando and young Indian batsman Robin Uthappa.
"We have quite a few good players in Pollock, Uthappa, Loots Bosman (of South Africa). It's going to be exciting, as we would be playing against other Sri Lankan players, like Kumar (Sangakkara), Mahela (Jayawardene), (Lasith) Malinga and (Muthiah) Murali(tharan)," he said.
Jayasuriya, dropped from Sri Lanka's one-day team playing in the West Indies , maintained that he is fit and working hard for the IPL.
"I am young too. I am very fit and working hard. I want to perform with bat and ball," said the 38-year-old marauder from Matara, in Sri Lanka.
"It (Twenty20) may be a young man's game but I have worked hard. I will try and make sure Mumbai wins (the title)," said Jayasuriya, who played a crucial role in his country winning the 1996 World Cup.
The veteran batsman did not favour a blanket ban on sledging as being demanded by the Indian cricket board, but wants umpires to take a more active role to keep it in check.
"We are all humans and you can't stop the chatter [between rival players] completely. You have to handle it carefully and the umpires are there [for this purpose]," said the scorer of nearly 7,000 Test runs.
Jayasuriya, whose record of 411 ODIs has since been overtaken by Tendulkar, was disappointed that Sri Lanka could not clinch the recent Test series in the West Indies.
"We played pretty well in Guyana but could not win the series, losing the second Test in Trinidad. Four early wickets cost us dear and this is an area we need to look into," he felt.
The injury-prone Fernando, expected to open the Mumbai Indians attack with Pollock, said it is great to play with Tendulkar and the other top players.
"It's great to play with Sachin and other international players. I have almost recovered fully [from injury]. I can do a lot for Mumbai," he said.
Six youngsters of the team, including a few Ranji Trophy players, said they would gain a lot of experience playing alongside or against leading international players.
Mumbai Ranji players Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Nair, Maharashtra's Yogesh Takawale, Baroda's Rajesh Pawar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Aniket Chavan said they would benefit immensely from the tournament.