Gros Islet (St Lucia): “On the field, I’m a cricketer, not a politician, so there’s no conflict,” is how Sanath Jayasuriya responded to calls from some quarters that he end his career as a sportsman.
The 40-year-old, who started his Sri Lanka innings just weeks after Sachin Tendulkar’s November 15, 1989 beginning, got elected to Parliament last month.
“I’m thankful to the people of Matara... I was busy with cricket, but they stood by me... My mother (Breeda) and brother (Chandana) did all the hard work... They did the campaigning on my behalf,” Jayasuriya told.
Jayasuriya, who won on the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance ticket, is the second cricketer in Sri Lanka, after the 1996 World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, to enter Parliament.
They haven’t met after the elections, though.
“It feels good to be in Parliament... This, obviously, is a very different pitch... But, then, I’m passionate about everything I do,” Jayasuriya said.
Having quit Test cricket after 110 appearances (6,973 runs, 14x100), Jayasuriya is now focusing on the ODIs (13,428 runs in 444 matches, 28x100) and T20 Internationals.
“I’m looking to play till the 2011 World Cup, let’s see how things go... I don’t take my place for granted and, so, I’ll have to keep performing and stay fit,” Jayasuriya pointed out.
Laughing, Jayasuriya added: “The people, in fact, want me to play till the World Cup... One reason, perhaps, being that Sri Lanka is one of the hosts... It’s going to be a big event for us and, yes, the expectations will also be big.”
Once through with cricket, what exactly will he do?
“Give all my time to the people... They expect me to deliver and I can’t let them down. I think, through my cricket, I’ve given joy to the people... As a Parliamentarian, I have the chance to actually work for them,” Jayasuriya maintained.
Jayasuriya, incidentally, refused to stick his neck out and predict who’d win the ongoing World Twenty20. “In this format, any team can beat the other... It’s hard to even guess,” he signed off.
The veteran should know — his franchise, the Mumbai Indians, topped the league stage of IPL III, but still lost in the final, to the Chennai Super Kings.