When he toured England as a 19 year old, Prasanna Jayawardene looked destined to become Sri Lanka’s long-term wicketkeeper. However, the emergence of Kumar Sangakarra just two years later put an end to those dreams. With two first class players coming through the ranks at the same time, there was always going to be one player left broken hearted.
Jayawardene did, however, make his Test debut in 2000 against Pakistan. Unfortunately for the 21 year old, persistent rain meant most of the game was washed out. The debutant didn’t get a chance to bat nor show off his skills behind the stumps.
Although he had to wait a long time for a recall, Jayawardene earned his reprieve when selectors opted to play Sangakarra as a specialist batsman. The incumbent hasn’t let the chance slip, and recently notched his 50th Test cap in the drawn series against New Zealand.
Knowing that he had to perform consistently with the bat, Jayawardene has vastly improved his average to a healthy 30.76. Two innings clearly stand out in his flourishing career. The first was a classy 154* against India in 2009 that confirmed his spot in the side. It was a similar innings to Brad Haddin’s maiden Test ton, in that it allowed him to break free of the shackles of his predecessor. He followed up his high score with a gritty 112 against a quality English attack in Cardiff.
Jayawardene’s work behind the stumps has been exemplary thus far. Most of the spinners in the side employ a host of mystery balls that are very hard to pick, yet he has been able to handle everything thrown at him. His 31 stumpings in 50 matches is one of the best strike rates going around.
While he has worked his way into the Test side, Jayawardene hasn’t played an ODI since 2007. With Sangakarra retaining the gloves in the shorter formats, it is unlikely that the now 33 year old will play again in limited overs cricket.
Jayawardene will appreciate the extra bounce in Australia, which should make his life behind the stumps even easier. Batting might be a different issue, with many touring parties failing to come to grips with the unique Australian conditions.