Colombo: Let me start by apologising to Sri Lanka’s most illustrious cricketer Mahela Jayawardene, for I’m guilty of disturbing a peaceful dinner with his family.
Although, the thorough professional that he is, I’m sure he would understand a journalist’s instincts and he clearly didn’t mind.
At the heart of Colombo is one of the most popular restaurants ‘Ministry of Crab’ co-owned by Lanka’s amazing cricketing pair Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.
The duo has been the flag-bearer of Sri Lankan cricket over the years. Their partnerships have helped Sri Lanka win many a battle and taken the island nation’s cricket to unbelievable heights. This joint-venture, too, spoke volumes of the solid bond and understanding the duo shares even off the field.
I was told well in advance that a visit to this eatery was a must for people visiting the capital but very little did I know that I will be served with the best crab curry in the presence of Jayawardene himself.
The wall-hanging in the restaurant that was formerly part of a Dutch hospital includes a life-size photograph of the two batting maestros dressed in their trade-mark apron. However, Jayawardene who was seated adjacent to it in a smart navy-blue shirt and black formal pants went unnoticed in the packed restaurant where advance booking is always advisable to do to avoid disappointment.
Humble as ever
Pulling out my lens, I made a dash straight to him and introduced myself. Jayawardene was as humble as he has always been during my previous encounters with him and was more than happy to oblige. A quick chat with him and a couple of photographs was enough to send the crowd into a frenzy. Guests got a whiff of his presence and thereafter, he was virtually mobbed for a good 10 odd minutes. The 37-year-old veteran star patiently gave in to the request of all his guests; from groupies to selfies and all were left happy.
But, the look on his family and children’s face said it all. My intrusion had cost them some quality time and I tendered my apologies which they accepted half-heartedly with a nod.
Jayawardene had not yet left with his team for the New Zealand series comprising two Tests and seven ODIs that started Boxing Day and only joined them after Christmas ; his last series before the World Cup.
“I just stayed back for the Christmas and will be leaving soon after 25th. I’m no more a part of the longer version you see, so a bit at ease and can join the side for the ODIs later,” said Jayawardene, who played his last ODI series at home against England this month.
“It will be a good series [New Zealand], I’m very much looking forward to it,” added Jayawardene, who along with his teammate and good friend Sangakkara, have already announced their retirements from the game after the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand early next year.
Before I could tuck into my meal, who else would have been better other than the owner himself, to ask for suggestions from the long list on the menu. And bursting into a broad grin he said, “It’s my restaurant, so I have to say everything is special. But if you ask me, all I can say is anything related to crab on that menu is nice and has been my favourite.”
And as Jaywardene rejoined his family, food was no longer on the minds of the people dining around and Sri Lankan cricket took centrestage and for most, the worry was who will be able to fill the void once the custodians of Sri Lankan cricket retire after the World Cup.
Most were of the view that, they have none at the moment of the duo’s stature to fit into those experienced boots and Sri Lankan cricket will take a beating once the duo have put their bats to rest.
The only people who were happy here were the restaurant staff who were glad that the duo would spend more time at their new endeavor and they would be the ones to see the pair on the same platform more than anyone else.
“We will be able to cater to them more often and perhaps this will be only place you will find them together after retirement.
“Both of them are so humble. You just saw how he entertained everyone. I have never seen them say no to anyone,” said a staff.