It surprised many that 39-year-old Sanath Jayasuriya was the third highest paid cricketer after Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Andrew Symonds in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The Sachin Tendulkar-led Mumbai Indians purchased the Matara Marauder for $975,000 during the players' auction and it is said Tendulkar valued Jayasuriya’s presence in the team. Tendulkar knows Jayasuriya’s worth. The Sri Lankan master blaster was one of the prime players for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL. Jayasuriya, too, has great admiration for Tendulkar. “I found that even after being in the game for such a long time, I still had a lot to learn by talking to Sachin. His cricketing knowledge is amazing.” The message is simple: cricket is not just a young man’s game. And like in the IPL, Jayasuriya showed this in the Asia Cup final by bulldozing his way to what proved to be a match-winning century. The Lankan left-hander smashed the Indian attack, blasting 125 off 114 deliveries to play one of the most striking innings of the tournament. The ‘old man’ put many youngsters to shame and, with that innings, also served a message to the Sri Lankan selectors. The fact is that Jayasuriya, after his poor form in Australia, was initially not a part of his country’s Asia Cup team The veteran batsman was obviously not amused. “Every cricketer goes through bad patches. It is hard no doubt, but one has to try and perform well in the middle,” he said. “When you go on a tour, you have to make sure you keep performing. If you don’t, they (critics) will start talking again.” While in Hyderabad for the match against Deccan Chargers, Jayasuriya had said: “I love playing for my country. Initial reports said that I was not in the team, but now that I have been included in the squad for the Asia Cup. I will see how it goes. Performing is important.” Those were the words of an unhappy Jayasuriya, who thought the selectors were not being fair to him. He was aware that one bad performance in the Asia Cup could cost him his place in the team forever. He is not getting younger and the Sri Lankan selectors are seemingly waiting for an opportunity to axe him. In this context, the IPL came as a blessing in disguise. During that tournament, he showed that he was as capable as ever of blasting the bowlers. His hand-eye coordination was very much evident as he cut, pulled and drove in his inimitable style. Jayasuriya did not mince words when people questioned his fitness, “I work hard on physical fitness. I am keen to perform at this level,” he said, adding that those over 30-plus needed to work extra hard on their fitness.” Jayasuriya has not lost his hunger for success. “There is a lot of time to go before the next World Cup, so I can’t say anything about playing in that tournament.” Jayasuriya will be 40 by the time the World Twenty20 is held in England next year. Sri Lanka will no doubt be tempted to play him, not least because form is temporary, class is permanent.
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