Mahela takes the crease

By Smriti Daniel

The doctor is in. At his ‘cricket clinic’ ( Mahela Jayawardena is taking questions. Generously doling out practical advice on sweep shots and cover drives, Mahela fields questions from fans across the globe. An unusually eloquent and engaged sportsman, Mahela also blogs regularly – his posts provide an intimate and informed commentary on the Sri Lanka cricket team’s matches.

Mahela has a few matches – and some painful farewells - coming up. “Murali is a legend, a true champion and a great friend. It will definitely be very sad and emotional saying goodbye and all the players in the team will be desperate to give him the kind of send-off he deserves in Galle. We really want to win the Test (against India) and hope he can take the eight wickets he needs to reach 800,” said Mahela, just before he left for Galle.

When he leaves the country, the cricketer is more often than not accompanied by his wife Christina. She gave up her job to be with him as his travel schedule became increasingly hectic – “being together on the road is much better for us both,” says Mahela.

The couple now try to tour as much as possible together, “which means we get to see some beautiful places and are fortunate to have some great friends around the world.” But living out of a suitcase can be tiring and they both seem to prefer visiting Christina’s family in Denmark. “The country is beautiful and it is actually quite nice escaping from the cricketing world so we can wander around without being spotted,” he says.

Though there’s a year to go, Mahela is already answering everyone’s favourite question: what are our chances in the World Cup, especially considering all the new talent on the team? He is putting his faith in captain Kumar Sangakkara’s plan for all of them. “I think we have an excellent chance if we can get our preparation right,” he said, adding, “We have some exceptional talented cricketers, we have a nice mix of youth and experience and we have an intimate knowledge of local conditions. What is needed now is fine-tuning and a lot of hard work from everyone involved.”

n What to eat where: My favourite food is Sri Lankan rice and curry. While I can eat all varieties, my favourite is home-cooked rice and curry at home. When I’m in Colombo I like to stop and buy a packet from any little kade.

n Where to visit: I have two favourites: the beaches down south, especially the stretch from Galle to Mirissa, and Kandy. Christina’s father has a small tea plantation in the hills above the town and staying there is always a great way to chill-out. And I love playing golf at Victoria on the other side of Kandy. (As a child, Mahela remembers travelling down south to see relatives en route to Kataragama. “We’d also go up to the hills, to Nuwara Eliya, hiring a bungalow for a week or so.)

n What to read: I don’t read fiction but I like autobiographies of world leaders, interesting personalities and international sportsman. I find their real-life stories interesting and insightful. My favourite recently has been Nelson’s Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.

n What to listen to: I’ve also had a soft spot for Sri Lankan music, including Clarence Wijewardene and Milton Mallawarachchi in the past and Bathiya and Santhush now.

n What to watch: Much to the annoyance and frustration of Christina, I love watching sports. I watch all competitive sports, often several matches at any one time as I flick through the channels. I’m looking forward to watching the British Open golf championship this weekend.

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