Sri Lankan cricket fans will be out in force when legendary batsman Mahela Jayawardene takes the field for the Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League in December and January.
Jayawardene is as a late replacement for West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard who has been ruled out with a knee injury.
He is expected to play in the Strikers first match of the BBL against Melbourne Stars at Adelaide Oval on Friday, December 18.
But it is the Adelaide Oval clash between the Strikers and a Hobart Hurricanes side featuring another Sri Lankan legend in Kumar Sangakkara that has fans most excited.
Australian Sri Lankan Association president Nazli Farook said there was a great deal of anticipation among 5000-strong Sri Lankan community in Adelaide, South Australia.
“Coming from the subcontinent we are all crazy about cricket and the community is definitely excited about Mahela coming to play for the Strikers,” he said.
“We have a very large Sri Lankan community here so definitely at every match there will be strong support for Mahela and the Strikers.”
Farook said the January 13 match where the two former Sri Lankan captains – Jayawardene and Sangakkara – face off will be a highlight.
“We will be all going – the two of them are great mates so they will be caught in an unusual situation where they are playing against each another but we are looking forward to that,” Farook said.
Farook said his Adelaide-based association had hosted Sri Lankan cricketers at functions since the 1980s and hoped to hold an event to honour Jayawardene.
Jayawardene, 38, retired from international cricket following Sri Lanka’s quarter final loss to South Africa at the 2015 World Cup in Australia but has continued his career in domestic competitions, most recently in New Zealand.
The right-hand batsman is regarded as one of cricket’s modern greats and played in more than 600 matches for Sri Lanka. He averaged 31.76 in T20 Internationals at an impressive strike rate of 133.18.
Jayawardene, whose first One Day International century came at the Adelaide Oval in 1999, said the Big Bash was something he had always wanted to be part of.
“Obviously with our international careers it was nearly impossible for us to make the Big Bash with the scheduling around Christmas time so it’s a great opportunity and I think Kumar’s going to enjoy it as well – I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“I’ve been playing quite a lot of cricket even though I’ve retired … New Zealand has been good fun, I had a few games and a good hit so hopefully I can continue that.”
Adelaide Strikers Head Coach and former Australian paceman, Jason Gillespie said Jayawardene would have a huge impact on the field and be a mentor to the younger players in the team.
“Mahela is a champion of the game and is without a doubt one of the greatest batsman to play cricket in the modern era,” he said.
“Having played against him myself I’m fully aware of the type of damage he can do, so it’ll be exciting to have him on our side this time.”
Gillespie said Sri Lanka had been a powerhouse in the shorter forms of the game and expected Adelaide’s proud Sri Lankan community to flock to matches.
“Their country has always produced batsmen who have excelled in this format and players like Jayawardene and Sangakkara are probably two of the greatest of the modern era,” Gillespie said.
“The game against the Hurricanes on January 13 will be a particularly special occasion for them, so we would love to see as many supporters as possible here to watch two of the greats of the game go head to head.”
Corporate Communications Manager
South Australian Cricket Association