National pride spurs on Jayawardene
This feature was originally published in full as The Big Interview in the official programme for the first npower Test against Sri Lanka in Cardiff - click here to buy England match programmes online
Sri Lanka were not playing Test cricket when Mahela Jayawardene was born but their rise has been swift since their introduction to the five-day game in 1982.
From those early years as newbies trying not to get kicked in the playground by the big boys, Sri Lanka are now a side that demands respect.
The exploits of the prolific Jayawardene are one of the reasons for Sri Lanka being where they are. Homing in on 10,000 Test runs, he is his country's leading runscorer.
But sometimes runs are not enough. You need spirit, fight and heart - characteristics Jayawardene says are in abundance in the Sri Lanka dressing room.
"Even though it’s just a tiny island, we’ve produced some remarkable cricketers over the past 20 to 30 years," he said.
"We wear our caps with pride and passion. We don’t want to lose any game. That’s probably a big part of why Sri Lankan cricket has moved so far so quickly.”
Jayawardene is unquestionably one of those 'remarkable cricketers' he refers to. So is Kumar Sangakkara, who boasts almost 8,500 Test runs at an average of 57.
Muttiah Muralitharan was too, but he is not around anymore, which means Jayawardene and Sangakkara have a dual role - to score heavily and ensure that life without Murali is not as bleak as many experts predict.
The runs should not be a problem for the next few years anyway - Jayawardene is 34, Sangakkara a year younger - but picking up the slack following the retirement of someone who took 800 Test wickets might be slightly harder.
Jayawardene will pass on some wise words to any pretender to Murali's throne - forget about the old master's shadow and concentrate on planting your own footsteps.
"The batters are still here," he said. "We’ve got a young bowling attack, with a couple of new spinners, so that will be a great challenge for them.
"It’ll be tough to fit into Murali’s shoes, but we’ve told them to try and leave their own mark in Sri Lankan cricket, rather than try and emulate a legend. They’ll be really looking forward to the opportunity.
There are a couple of young fast bowlers who are going to make their first international appearances as well, so it will be a great occasion for them to run in in a Test match. They’ll be really hyped up.”