It was time for both the captains to pose with the World T20 trophy but Mahela Jayawardene was made to wait – the Sri Lankans had wrapped practice a little early and their pre-match conference had ended as well. That’s when Firstpost caught up with the most popular man in Sri Lanka for an exclusive chat on all matters not cricket.
The first question, as it almost inevitably is with with Mahela was about Manchester United. Yes, it’s the day before the biggest match of his life but he’s worried about how Man United have a tough match against Newcastle in the match on Sunday. Now that’s a club that Mahela has supported for a really long time—his favourite players are Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona, Steve Bruce—not Wayne Rooney or even Cristiano Ronaldo—he’s old school.
"If only we could wrap up the final quickly—winning it of course and get back in time to watch the match,” he said while laughing. "Kagawa has been superb -- for me, he is the next big star. Van Persie has been amazing from his first moment in the red jersey. Rooney has slotted in well behind the strikers and Ronaldo was sold at the right time!"
So fierce is Mahela’s loyalty to United that he can’t figure out how people can support two clubs at the same time.
“You know, that’s the thing with Sanga and some of the other boys in the team—they support whoever is playing against United and I can’t believe it. They support whoever is playing well—there is no loyalty in that. For me, it’s just United, Forever United,” added the Sri Lankan skipper.
"We’ve (Now we here in Man United) got to win to keep pace with Chelsea early. If we do that then after the winter break it’s all us," said Mahela. "The rest just fall away as Man United rise to the title -- it’s the sweetest feeling."
Surely, it won’t be as sweet as Sri Lanka winning on Sunday night. So, how has the demand for the tickets been?
“I think people think I have a ticket-vending machine or something.
Press a button and I’ll get a ticket. Bam! But unfortunately, it’s nothing like that. I’ve had to switch off my mobile. It’s been crazy. But I love it—it’s a first for everyone—for them and for me. To play a final at home feels amazing,” he added.
Indeed, this will be Mahela’s fourth World Cup final – three as captain. But Sunday, promises to be so different. There will be 35,000 people at the R Premadasa stadium in Colombo and they will all be supporting just one team. What’s it like to have that kind of feeling – to have every person in the stadium cheer me?
“Well, it’s tough to describe the emotions that one goes through but my friends tell me, that they have more fun in the stands. I told them that I’ll probably need to wait a year or two before I can join them there,” he said with a grin.
Sri Lanka’s a nice place to watch cricket—in fact, it feels a lot like the West Indies. The band is playing, the people are dancing, there is a festive feel in the stadium—there isn’t any anger just joy. The only chants you are hear are: Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka.
So what plans does Mahela have for the evening?
"Well, I have been trying to convince my partner to come out for dinner with me to the Ministry of Crab (a restaurant that’s run by Sangakkara and Jayawardene) but she insists, we can go only before 6 pm or after 10 pm. I keep trying to tell her I have a final to play."
Well, that’s one battle he won’t mind losing as long as come Sunday, he lifting the trophy and 20 million Sri Lankans launch them into a wild, mad party.