Jayawardene to step down from captaincy

Jayawardene-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

These are difficult days for Jayawardene. While his team has been largely out-played by India in a 4-1 verdict in the one-dayers, the skipper’s loss of form with the willow has not helped matters either, writes S. Dinakar.

The Sri Lankan Independence Day celebrations are over, tanks and armoured cars roll out. People are back flocking the beach which is a blaze of colour.

India’s cricket tour of Sri Lanka is nearing conclusion. The mood in the Indian camp is one of quiet confidence; Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men have also climbed to the second spot in the ICC ODI rankings.

The side, on a roll, seeks its 10th successive ODI win at the Premadasa Stadium. The Indians, though, pay the price for relaxing a bit during the Sri Lankan innings.

The change in luck with the spin of the coin fetches Sri Lanka a win.

Skipper Mahela Jayawardene has been in the game long enough to comprehend fortune swings. Even as the cricketers engage themselves in a late-evening game of pool at the Sports Bar in Taj Samudra, Kenny Rogers’ immortal song — “You should know when to hold up, know when to fold up, know when to walk away....” fills the room.

These are difficult days for Jayawardene. While his team has been largely out-played by India in a 4-1 verdict, the skipper’s loss of form with the willow has not helped matters either.

An introspective man, Jayawardene appears to be seeking answers from within. These are times when his rather spontaneous smile seems to have sought a temporary exile.

The Lankans put up a brave face at the breakfast table. Jayawardene and his wife Christina are joined by close friend and vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara. Muttiah Muralitharan is his lively self. Sanath Jayasuriya holds court with the younger bunch.

Jayawardene — along with seniors Sangakkara and Muralitharan — is not a part of the one-off Twenty20 game at the Premadasa Stadium. By now, the skipper has already made up his mind to relinquish captaincy after the Test tour of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, I catch up with my vegetarian soul-mate Venkatesh Prasad at the dinner table. “Before I was fussy, I wanted only South Indian vegetarian food. Now I have opened up in my mind more. I have vegetarian pizza and stuff like that,” says Venkatesh Prasad.

Fielding coach Robin Singh, married to Sujatha, a Chennai Iyengar, is a converted vegetarian in a shrinking tribe in the cricketing world. Robin continues to be astonishingly fit.

While much focus is on Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten, Robin and Prasad have contributed immensely to the Indian surge. Both are committed, share years of cricketing experience and wisdom.

Meanwhile, there is a whiff of a controversy as Sachin Tendulkar leaves for home ahead of the Twenty20 international. Manager Prakash Dixit clarifies that the maestro is not part of the Twenty20 squad. He is hurt at the speculations.

Cricket is a circle of life and the comeback men from injuries, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Lasith Malinga, deserve credit for keeping the fire burning. Balaji flashes his trade-mark smile. Malinga, his colourful mane intact, waltzes across the hotel lobby.

Meanwhile it is time to hire Tuk Tuk — auto rickshaws are called by this name in Colombo — for one last time even as the golden sun drifts away.

All roads lead to Premadasa Stadium this Tuesday. There is a clogging of traffic and the inflow of spectators into the stadium. The atmosphere inside is one of celebration as Sri Lanka welcomes international Twenty20 cricket. In the final stretch of the match, the crowd goes through emotions of varying hues.

Cricket has this habit of throwing up great stories and the Pathan brothers, Irfan and Yusuf, script a sensational win for India. The engaging story that began in the alleys of Vadodara continues on the highway of international cricket.