Chandigarh: With 9,120 runs in Tests and 8,702 in ODIs, Mahela Jayawardene is pretty qualified to talk about the two batsmen whove recently completed 20 years at the international level Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya.
He has, in fact, been in the same dressing room with one and competed against the other.
Over breakfast at the Mount View Hotel, on Saturday, Jayawardene (a former national captain) spoke to The Telegraph on the giants. Sanath has, of course, retired from Test cricket.
For the record, Jayawardene has himself been around, at the highest level, for 13 years. In the ongoing IPL, hes turning out for the Kings XI Punjab, captained by his Sri Lanka successor Kumar Sangakkara.
The following are excerpts
Thoughts on Sachin (36) and Sanath (40): Their records do all the talking... I dont have to speak about the quality of their achievements, the world knows everything... What stands out is that theyve been around for 20 years... To sustain the intensity for such a long period is amazing... Theyve been disciplined, theyve been committed and theyve been passionate. Theyve shown all the qualities of a champion sportsman.
On Sachin: For the first 15 years or so of his career, Sachin had to carry the entire burden of Indias batting on his shoulders... Its of late that Indias batting has got very strong and others have taken some of the burden off him... Ive played in matches where people came to see Sachin only, that has been his standing... People have left the stadium when he got out... I recall times when the opposition would simply focus on getting Sachins wicket, for that would be half the battle won... Today, that has changed a bit and, as a result, hes probably enjoying his cricket a lot more... Sachins consistency under pressure has been remarkable... Early on, as youngsters, wed be overawed approaching him... That changed after a few years on the circuit... In more recent years, Ive had opportunities to chat with Sachin, not just about cricket... Ive enjoyed that and have come away with something to think about.
Sachins USP: The way he keeps things simple... The way he bats... In fact, the way he goes about everything... Everybody can learn from Sachin, not just cricketers... Id say that theres less pressure if you manage to keep things simple, like Sachin does...
[In 166 Tests, Sachin has scored 13,447 runs with 47 hundreds; in 442 ODIs, he has 17,598 runs with 46 hundreds.]
On Sanath: Hes one of those unbelievable stories... Sanath emerged from a region (Matara) which hadnt produced a really big name, came to Colombo and went about proving a point... Nobody before him came from way down south with such ambitions... Sanath established himself at a time our cricket was turning a page, getting away from the traditional way of playing the game... After the 1996 World Cup, thanks to the way Sanath and (Romesh) Kaluwitharana went about the first 15 overs, teams had to change strategy... Sanath didnt change his game, rather every opposition had to plot differently... He helped us build our identity and didnt listen to those who wanted him to change his approach... He had the confidence to deliver on his terms.
Sanaths USP: Fitness, confidence... We arent surprised that Sanath has decided to contest the upcoming Parliamentary elections... He has, after all, the aura... This is a new challenge for him and hes bound to be supremely confident... Sanath believes he can do anything and, who knows, may one day become Sri Lankas President! Its difficult to stop somebody with such self-belief and so much confidence. Sanath has achieved everything in cricket, now he has set himself a different goal...
[In 110 Tests, Sanath finished with 6,973 runs and 14 hundreds; in 444 ODIs, he has 13,428 runs with 28 hundreds.]
On there being much to learn from Sachin and Sanath
Yes... Commitment, discipline and confidence... Both have been tops in commitment, have been most disciplined and have always been supremely confident... Theyve believed in a certain way of doing things and have backed themselves... Those with big dreams need to emulate what Ive listed. Clearly, you cant have better role models.
Finally, if he had a son, whether he would make him bat like Sachin or Sanath
(Laughs) No... Ill tell you why... I believe its important to have your own identity. Sure, if I had a son, Id like him to look up to Sachin and Sanath, but Id also most definitely like him to be himself... To carve his own identity... If you try copying others, theres every chance you could lose your way... Draw inspiration, but be yourself... Build on your identity... That, for me, is the only way forward...