If Kumar Sangakarra is Sri Lanka’s greatest cricketer, then Mahela Jayawardene must be a close second. In a career that has lasted over 15 years, the current Test captain has made a name for himself as a gifted and fluent batsman. He is the only Sri Lankan player to have reached 10,000 Test runs, and is one of only three to have surpassed the same total in ODI’s.
Much can be written about the ease in which Jayawardene bats. Like many batsmen from the sub-continent, he doesn’t rely on footwork. Rather, his incredible eye allows him to hit the ball with a pair of wrists envied by the world over. His timing is only matched by his placement, which always manages to pierce even the tightest field placings.
At Test level, Jayawardene has been a part of all of Sri Lanka’s greatest triumphs. His debut match saw his side hit a world record 952 runs against India. Having hit centuries against every Test playing nation, Jayawardene’s highlight remains his 374 against South Africa in 2006. The record innings is the highest score produced by a Sri Lankan. It also came in a monumental partnership of 624 with Kumar Sangakarra. The partnership has never been matched, and it is unlikely to be broken in the future.
In a country dominated by politics, Jayawardene has endured a pressure filled career. He has twice been the country’s captain, which bears as much, if not more pressure, than any other nation. Yet, he has managed to excel in the Test arena throughout his 15 year stint. His career average of 50.18 is largely made up of success at home, with the talented top-order player struggling in bouncier conditions.
His ODI and T20 careers are testament to the idea that proper cricketing shots will always be rewarded. He has played an ageless 386 ODI matches, including four World Cups. His match winning century in the semi-final win against New Zealand saw Sri Lanka qualify for the final in 2007. Sadly, they went on to lose that match, as well as the 2011 final.
Importantly, Jayawardene has been able to constantly evolve his game to suit the ever-changing needs of world cricket. The introduction of T20 has improved his game, with the right-handed batsman adding a new array of shots to his already impressive arsenal. His ability to play all over the ground makes him a difficult proposition for opposition captains. After dominating the 2010 World T20, Jayawardene led Sri Lanka to the 2012 final, which they also lost; this time to the West Indies.
Aside from a lack of silverware, Jayawardene has achieved just about everything in cricket. As one of Sri Lanka’s premier players, much will be expected of him during the Australian tour.