New Delhi: As his illustrious innings in Test cricket came to an end, the artistic Mahela Jayawardene wished he could play more matches in Australia, England and South Africa and built his reputation of being a connoisseurs delight the world over.
"It is true my average away (outside the sub-continent) is less than that at home. Of course, I would have ideally preferred that not to be the case. When I look back, I feel that I would certainly have loved more opportunities to play more Test matches in England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa," 37-year-old Jayawardene told PTI in an exclusive interview, a day after his retirement.
Is he is completely satisfied with his 17-year international career, the soft-spoken Jayawardene tried to put things in perspective.
"In hindsight, there are of course a few things that I would have done differently but I always gave my 100 percent and tried to play in the right spirit. I think I am very fortunate to have played so long for Sri Lanka. It`s been an absolute honour playing for my country and I will always cherish the great memories, I had along the journey," he said.
Quiz him on the special moments of his career, the emotional side came out.
"Saying goodbye to my fans after the end of match was very special. But seriously, there were lots of moments. Winning the World T20 beating India this year was very special.
"Being able to share a dressing room career with so many greats, like Murali, Vaasy (Chaminda Vaas), Sanga and Sanath (Jayasuriya) was a privilege. Captaining the team between 2006 and 2009 and then again in 2012 was a very special experience," he said.
The owner of nearly 25,000 international runs (24,988 runs) felt that since Sri Lanka will not play any international cricket for one year, he thought it was the perfect time to leave.
"I am sure I will miss Test cricket like anything. But my gut feeling said the right time had come. It`s nearly a year until our next home series in Sri Lanka and its time for a younger player to come in and establish himself," said the affable Lankan, who has always been a teammate to the core.
The 2015 World Cup in Australia will be his international swansong and he is focussed on the big one.
"I will still play ODI cricket until the 2015 World Cup, if selected, and I am really looking forward to that challenge. We have a good team and I think we can be contenders if we play to our potential," he said.
Jayawardene also has plans to devote more time to Sri Lankan domestic cricket, which he could not in these years due to international commitment.
"I also plan to play more domestic cricket over the next two years and would love to play in IPL, Big Bash and CPL in next two years."
So what were the most special Test innings among the assortment of tons (34 in all) that he still recalls. Jayawardene actually recalls four such innings.
"My first Test hundred (1997) against New Zealand (167) in Galle was up there, as was the second-innings hundred against South Africa (123) at P. Sara in 2006 where we won. Not to forget the second-innings hundred (119) at Lord`s back in 2006. And my highest Test score of 374 against South Africa will forever be etched in my memory," he said.
Will there be a problem with regards to smooth transition in Sri Lankan cricket, now that he has called it quits and Kumar Sangakkara is also in the business end of his international career.
"Our youngsters will develop and my departure will provide an opportunity for a youngster. Sri Lanka is blessed with cricketing talent and I am confident the transition will be quick," he sounded confident.
Politics is a strict "no-no" for Jayawardene, who is now excited that he will be able to spend more time with his wife Christina and baby daughter Sansa.
"I`m still focused on my cricket for the next two years and want to balance my cricketing commitments with my family. International retirement will give me an opportunity to spend time with my wife Christina and daughter Sansa while also really enjoying the final years of my playing career.
"Post cricket, I am not too sure, probably a mix of family, charity, business (he runs a restaurant Ministry of Crabs with Kumar Sangakkara), media and a bit of coaching," he signed off.