KOCHI: It was getting extremely congested at the new ‘Interiors’ showroom. Young and old, staff, family, guests, fans; they were all there, queuing up to get up close to Sanath Jayasuriya. And most of them were not disappointed as they shook hands, got autographs signed and photographs taken with the Sri Lankan cricket legend.
Apart from the excitement of seeing one of the most successful batsmen of all time in flesh and blood, within touching distance, admiration for his persona was writ large on the fans’ faces.
“Lady staff selfies now!” he said, even as the women rounded up the star.
Despite the jostle for space, with a bevy of mediapersons in attendance too, he left the venue with the same countenance that he had arrived in - pleasant and smiling.
As the chief guest for the inauguration of Sketch Interiors in the city on Monday, Jayasuriya was an antithesis to the swagger and belligerence of the left-handed marauder that cricket lovers had grown used to watching on the cricket field.
He was very charming that fans could not get enough of photo sessions with the former Sri Lanka skipper when he was whisked away to the hotel in a Jaguar.
“What a simple man!” was the common refrain heard as the star left after spending around an hour looking up the new firm. He was followed up and down the narrow stairs by nearly the entire complement of people present on the occasion.
“I thank the management of Sketch for inviting me here. It’s a privilege,” Jayasuriya said, even while the small gathering felt that they were the more privileged ones to have had the scorer of more than 20,000 international runs amidst them. He then ventured forth to answer queries from the media with some panache, skipping past some tricky questions with a disarming smile.
In fact, Jayasuriya had visited the showroom on Sunday evening itself, after arriving from Islamabad at around 10.30 pm.
“It was a fantastic experience to have him with us. Very friendly and humble. He had spent around three hours in our office on Sunday,” said Ramanand M E, the managing director of Sketch Interiors.
It was the first occasion in recent memory that a cricketer of his stature had been so easily accessible to the general public. For good measure, he is also a deputy minister in the Maithripala Sirisena government in Sri Lanka.
“We had deliberately decided against having big security, as we wanted everyone to meet him freely,” Ramanand added.
The star was accorded a warm reception with a troupe of traditional drummers providing quite an atmosphere. Apart from the affection of Kochiites, Jayasuriya would perhaps also keep in memory some Kerala fish cuisine that he tasted during his all too brief stay in the city.