Sri Lankan batsman Sanath Jayasuriya turned 40 yesterday, with a vow to carry on until the 2011 World Cup despite being the oldest cricketer still playing at the top level.
“Age is not a problem, it is how you stay mentally and physically fit to remain on top of the game, to try out new variations in the bat and ball,” Jayasuriya said.
The dashing batsman, who also bowls left-arm spin, made his international debut in 1989 and won praise during Sri Lanka’s victorious World Cup campaign in 1996.
Jayasuriya is only the second batsman after India’s Sachin Tendulkar to pass 13,000 runs in one-day internationals. He is also the oldest batsman to score a one-day century, at 39 years and 212 days.
“I don’t really worry about records anymore these days,” the left-hander said. “I focus on putting runs on the board, to help the team win matches.”
Jayasuriya retired from Test matches in 2007, but continues to shine in the physically challenging shorter version of the game, determined to prove he has a few more miles left on the clock.
He is virtually unstoppable when on song, and scored freely during the recent World Twenty20 in England where Sri Lanka won six successive matches before losing to Pakistan in the final.
Jayasuriya said the emergence of talented young players meant he could never take his place for granted in the national team.
“Playing with youngsters is extra hard these days,” said the all-rounder who led Sri Lanka from 1999 to April 2003.
“There is an abundance of raw talent constantly knocking at the door for a berth in the team. And that puts pressure on me. I have to perform to retain my place,” he said.
Jayasuriya announced his retirement in 2006, but made a comeback during Sri Lanka’s tour of England that year.
Now he does not talk of quitting and Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara said he has left the decision with Jayasuriya.
“Sanath is a match winner and as long as he’s fit and willing to play for us, we are happy to have him in the side,” Sangakkara said.
Asked if he will play the World Cup in 2011, Jayasuriya said: “I would love to. I am taking each series at a time. Hopefully I will get there.”
His next outing will be against World Twenty20 champions Pakistan, who will play five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 game after the three-Test series that starts in Sri Lanka on July 4.