Mahela’s message to
budding cricketers :
Commit to a cause,
control what you
For those schoolboy cricketers, parents, teachers, coaches and everyone else who
were present at the 38th Sunday Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year
awards night at Hotel Galadari last Tuesday the keynote address delivered by Sri
Lanka cricketing legend and former captain Mahela Jayawardene was a lesson on
how to become a successful cricketer.
Mahela Jayawardene delivering the keynote address.
For a schoolboy, once his career at school is over the next big step he has to
take is always going to be a challenging one and Jayawardene is one of the few
who has done it with success to be hailed as one of the greatest players of the
modern era. The speech he delivered at the awards night gave a lot of insight to
budding young cricketers aspiring to play for the country a message that will
take them a long way towards fulfilling their ambitions.
“The best time that I’ve had playing cricket was probably the time I spent
playing for Nalanda College where we enjoyed playing as a team, just playing
cricket,” said Jayawardene.
“When we played for the first XI team the first thing we look at is the fixtures
where we could go to Kandy or to Galle.
Those days we didn’t have a school bus, we get on the train and travel. Those
were wonderful days where we enjoyed playing school cricket and nothing has
changed. I think the foundation of Sri Lankan cricket is always and has been a
strong school set up which I believe is probably the best in the world. “We have
cricket from the age group of 13 in different divisions close to 700 schools
which I believe other countries don’t have. That gives us that
edge to produce skillful talented cricketers. For the last 20-30 years of
international cricket we’ve seen so many school cricketers have dominated school
cricket and made the next step to become wonderful international cricketers.
That step is not an easy one. It’s difficult purely because you are in the
limelight,” Jayawardene continued.
“Playing school cricket you don’t get that limelight but once you take that step
forward to be an international cricketer then all the cameras, all the writing
pads, all the pens are focused on you, that’s where the difference starts,
that’s where you become a man to be able to have responsibility who knows what
it takes to represent your country and above all to compete at the game that we
“Another important thing for a schoolboy cricketer right now is to enjoy
cricket. With the glamour and with all the other distractions a lot of
cricketers forget that it’s a beautiful game, it’s a very enjoyable game and
that we play with team mates. It’s a team sport so you know values as
individuals to support each other to play as a team. When your fellow team mate
is not doing well it’s your responsibility to go and make sure that he gets to
that level where he can compete. That’s a huge learning curve as a team sport.
School cricket has given not just me but a lot of other cricketers that
confidence to go out there and conquer the world.
There is no limits no barriers but it’s your mind that will hold you back if you
do not believe in your ability,” he said.
Throwing back the years on an incident that took place when he had just made it
to the Sri Lanka team, Jayawardene said, “I was 20 when I started playing for
Sri Lanka. I was quite lucky enough to meet a gentleman called Barry Richards
some of the younger generations might not have heard of him.
He is an ex-South African cricketer during the apartheid and didn’t have the
opportunity to play much for his country, played only seven Test matches but
played a lot of first-class cricket for Hampshire, for New South Wales and
Australia, wonderful batsman.
“He came to Sri Lanka for two weeks worked with the national team and one advice
he gave as a group was “control what you can control” - very few words but had a
huge meaning attached to that. At that time when I was a youngster I did not
“What he said was how you could control your mind, how you could control all the
distractions around you, how you could control the situation as a batsman, as a
bowler or as a person. When you go to play a match whether it’s in Sri Lanka or
overseas the conditions are going to be different, the opposition is different
you get fans who will give you pleasantries when you walk in even opposition
team mates who’ll say a few things. The wickets going to be different grassy,
bouncy or in England the ball will swing a bit for the fast bowlers. To be in
control of any of those elements as an individual, you can’t.
That’s already been there, it’s given to you, but there’s one thing that you can
control and that is how you are going to play on these conditions, how you are
going to get your mind and preparation ready to play in these conditions, how
you can block all the distractions of fans, crowds, media what they write about
you everything. It’s in your ability you can control that as a player and that
comes with discipline.
“You as a cricketer probably will have 15-20 years span as a professional
cricketer whether you play for your country or not as a professional cricketer
that is the period that you have to discipline yourself.
That’s the period that you have to make the commitment for you and for your
parents who’s probably been behind you all the way, coaches, your masters in
charge everyone else has put in a lot of effort to get you to where you are so
that 20 years is all you have to commit to cricket. Commit to a cause that’s the
most important message I got as a 20-year-old when I stepped in, to control what
I can control.”
SLSCA’s BIG RESPONSIBILITY
Speaking further Jayawardene stated that Sri Lanka schools cricket has entered a
new era after the war and the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) had
a bigger and responsible role to play.
“Sri Lanka has come a long way as a cricketing nation, we won so many
tournaments world championships in a few occasions we definitely punched above
our way but can we be satisfied? No. We can’t because there’s more to win, more
to achieve, and we need to keep striving towards that,” said Jayawardene.
“It’s a new era for Sri Lanka schools cricket after a war which had plagued the
country for over 30 years. I grew up in the war, the war started when I was six
and for 30 odd years I was part of that.
But we don’t have to worry about that anymore. We got new cricketers coming from
the north and east, it’s exciting. I’ve been there they are very talented, you
just have to give them opportunities.
That’s where the Schools Cricket Association has a big responsibility. As
custodians of school cricket to implement and carry forward the responsibilities
of taking school cricket forward because this is the foundation that builds our
“Politics aside it is utmost that we treat each and every individual the same
way, each and every district, province the state the same way. Eighty percent of
our national team comprises outstation cricketers, same with the under 19 team
when I watched them in England 4-5 weeks ago.
The dynamics of Sri Lanka cricket has changed and we need to change with that.
With that thought I would like to congratulate all the winners today and even
the ones who haven’t won. It’s just the start there’s a long way to go I wish
you all the very best in your future.”