Sanath Jayasuriya scored over 20,000 runs and took 440 wickets across all three formats of the game during a 22-year international career that ended in 2011. The 47-year-old spoke to the media on the sidelines of the first Test match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at Galle International Cricket Stadium on Friday.
How are things going for Sri Lanka at the moment?
We are trying to build the Sri Lanka team at the moment. We have got quite a few talented youngsters and we have given them the opportunity. They’ve been playing well. Sri Lanka cricket needs a bit more time to settle down. We are doing well in Sri Lanka but in South Africa, as the chairman of selectors, I was not happy. We are in a transition period and the players need a little time to settle down. It's a young team.
How long will it take to revive the glory days of the past?
That you can’t say. With experience they will come up to what we were earlier. It all depends on the opportunities they get and how long they are in the team, then you will be seeing their performances.
Our cricket is going in the right direction. Sri Lanka cricket is doing a lot of provincial cricket, age-level cricket and talent searching is going on. So Sri Lankan cricket is also working very hard. We are in the right direction, we don’t need to win a World Cup. We have been in the final and the semi-finals, that means we are doing well.
Bangladesh is about to play its 100th Test. What progress do you see?
They’ve been really good, they’ve been improving. Bangladesh Cricket Board has done a lot of things to improve grassroots cricket, develop youngsters and it’s coming up really well. At the moment you have got a very good team. And the team has been playing a long time now. So they’re good, even though sometimes the ups and downs will be there, but Bangladesh cricket has done a lot of things.
How did you find playing club cricket in Dhaka?
My club is Mohammedan. I enjoyed my time with the club. They looked after me very well, I am happy and Mahbub [Anam] looked after me very well.
How did you transition from playing to selecting?
My journey was very good. I am happy with what I did in 20 years of playing cricket, and with this opportunity again to serve as chairman of selectors. I did two years before and every time, what I want is to bring the team up and do something with Sri Lanka cricket. So I’ll be very happy to do this job. As long as I can do something good for Sri Lanka cricket, that’s what matters.
What are your thoughts on T20?
T20 has come, 50 overs is there, Test cricket is there. That’s another department; everyone enjoys T20 cricket, and I do too. But for me, the first priority is Test cricket. I love Test cricket, that will remain.
My style of play is attacking cricket but it suits everything – Test, ODI, T20 cricket.
Who will replace Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara?
You can’t replace those players overnight. You can’t replace Aravinda de Silva still. You need somebody to give them the opportunity and experience, then one day we will talk about these players too. That’s how it should be.
It’s all up here, mentally. So if you get a chance anybody can get a big hundred like (Sri Lanka batsman) Kusal Mendis. That will help the team.
How do you rate Mendis as a batsman?
He is a long innings player. He went through a difficult time in South Africa, he got a few fifties but didn’t convert those into hundreds. But in the Australia series he got a big hundred and we won 3-0. He got an opportunity in this game and scored 194 , so that’s how it should be. We always need one of the top five to hit a big hundred.