Mike Holmans June 2, 2011

Hail Mahela

The best sort of cricket match to watch is one which your team wins and your favourite player on the other side gets a hundred or a five-for

The best sort of cricket match to watch is one which your team wins and your favourite player on the other side gets a hundred or a five-for. I am therefore hoping that Lord's will bring another England win and another century for Mahela Jayawardene.

I can't say that I noticed him on his first visit to England in 1998. Sri Lanka only played the one Test, in which Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya were so dazzling that a 21-year-old with no record who scored very few passed under the radar.

But when England went to Sri Lanka a couple of years later, it was very different. In the first Test at Galle Jayawardene came in at 5 to join Marvan Atapattu, who was on his way to a double hundred, following the dismissal of Aravinda de Silva for a typically stylish hundred of his own. In such a healthy position, he obviously had a bit of licence to play his shots, which he proceeded to do – and I was captivated.

Such economy of movement, such timing, such precision, such delicacy. A Swiss watchmaker would have been very proud to have constructed a mechanism which functioned so perfectly.

He did even better in the second Test at Kandy. Sri Lanka were in a bit of trouble at 80-4 when he was joined by Russel Arnold, who had the sense to keep his head down and keep his end going while Jayawardene set about the bowling. Wiseacres might have called it irresponsible, but he had resolved to counter-attack – and it worked. No-one could bowl to him as he scampered to a brilliant three-hour hundred. So pleased was he with reaching three figures that he fatally lost concentration and was out almost immediately, but I was now prepared to predict a very bright future for him.

Not realising how long Sachin Tendulkar would go on, I thought Mahela would succeed Sachin as the best batsman around, and I looked forward to his visit to England in 2002.

In the first Test at Lord's, he twinkled his way to a ton in the sunshine, with Marvan Atapattu again playing straight man on his way to another huge score. Mahela was at his entertaining best, playing beautiful wristy shots off all and sundry. Atapattu's 185 was a larger part of the Lankan's imposing 555, and Aravinda de Silva's 88 was typical of the man, but it was Mahela's champagne-style innings which captured the heart as well as the eye. It was probably at this point that the career trajectories of de Silva and Jayawardene crossed; from there on, Mahela became Sri Lanka's marquee batsman as Aravinda gradually faded.

But there was a slight suspicion that he was a froth player: he wasn't then well-known for being able to put his head down and graft when the going got tough. Things could not have been much tougher, though, when he came out to bat at Lord's in the second innings in 2006. Sri Lanka were 250 behind in their follow-on with more than two days remaining; it was going to take something quite heroic to pull the game out of the fire, and captain Jayawardene produced it. His patient hundred took up day four in as boring a way as he could manage. Which isn't all that boring: his impregnability meant that he did not wave that magic wand of a bat as often but when he did, the crystal flash lit up the gloomy grey.

Although it depends on what the next Future Tours Programme comes up with, it is very likely that this will be Mahela's last Test tour of England, which means that Lord's will be my last chance to see him bat in a Test. I don't care in what manner he gets it - he is one of those batsmen who cannot play a horrid innings whatever he does – but I really hope he can complete a hat-trick of centuries at HQ so I can stand and applaud him while wishing him farewell. I'd just rather he didn't end up on the winning side.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fanedlive on January 29, 2012, 20:58 GMT

    Mahels's world cup final hundred will go down in cricketing history as an all-time classic of concentration and execution.

  • fanedlive on October 16, 2011, 2:12 GMT

    Great article Mike. Mahela is the most lethal batsman in all 3 formats. He reads the game well and takes calculated risk from 1st ball. He got the best cricketing brain just like Shane Warne or Vivian Richards. Mahela is the best cricketer Sri Lanka ever produced. People who compare Mahela with Sanga and Aravinda dont know what they talking about. They are all good batsmans but Mahela is a world class act. I watched most of Kochi matches (IPL) and he always predict winning score heaps better than Sachin and all other Indians. That shows how much better cricketer he is.

  • fanedlive on October 1, 2011, 11:44 GMT

    Dear faumi, Year 2003, was nearly a decade ago.But his contributions in 2007 wc semi & 2011 wc final made us really proud.We need more Mahelas in years to come.We are proud of you.

  • fanedlive on August 8, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    Memorries of 2003 world cup. Can any one recall

  • fanedlive on July 24, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    @NUWAN:After the 120 mahela scored in Australia against England in an ODI the great Ari predicted Mahela will be much better than he ever was! It is never easy to compare players of different periods, so just accept that both Ari and Mahela are 2 of a kind :) For those of you have never seen ROY DIAS bat all i can say is sorry mate u should have been born earlier. Having played school cricket with Marvan the Marvel, there is no doubt he was one of the most technically correct batsmen of Sri Lanka ever! Sangakkara no doubt is a good batsman and is classy as a left hander can be. After all there is something cool about good leftys (and some ordinary ones as well) like Gower, Lara, Kambli (remember him?)Fleming et al. Even though Hayden was also a lefty he was more like SAnath and Asnka the Guru, brutal than pleasing. One more thing - people who say Ari won so many for Sri Lanka seem to forget the match against Australia at SSC which we lost chasing 180 and made Shane Warne's career

  • fanedlive on July 4, 2011, 3:04 GMT

    Don't even think of comparing Grate Aravinda to Mahela. Aravinda is a world class players can bat in any pitch and a match winner. Aravinda scored against the versy best (Wasim, Waquar, Magrath etc) Mahela cannot suvived even 2 to 3 overs agist quality bowlers. He is a flat track bully.

  • fanedlive on June 20, 2011, 1:17 GMT

    So are you guys like forgetting Sangakkara? He is a way more elegant batsman than Jayawardane will ever be...

  • fanedlive on June 8, 2011, 11:26 GMT

    @Mok you are defending Mahela.Please think as an unbiased person and see the truth. Mahela has been playing for allmost 12 years now. How many opportunities were given to him, He was not rested, dropped or injured during his carreer i think. which is unfair compared to other players in sri lanka. he is in every match, you think if a person was given a such a luxary. after so much of years definately that player will be the countrys highest run getter. as there is no compettion for him within the team, he will play anchor innings and plays hundreds.you see his name in every match, he doesnt like give his position to a younger players and play as low order batsmen like arjuna or dhoni did. he is selfish player. He wants to be one man show. if you think about past 12 yeard, he continued all the tours 98% of matches. youngsters were never given opportunities. he never get injured because he is a risk free cricketer,unlike murali,dilshan or any fast bowler.not 'hail Mahela' 'failed mahela'

  • fanedlive on June 7, 2011, 18:35 GMT

    @ Sumedh You complete my comments, the words I mean "Sanga has to go so far" more towards the captaincy & Kumar is having the best average , but still Mahela is leading considering the ability to win matches...

    replying to your question.. I would like to see ARAVINDA, MAHELA, ARJUNA (This is my order) in the end , cause there will be a definite win in the end with these players, my dear..Sanga was there till the end in many times .. but how many wins I doubt or rather I cannot remember any great win.

  • fanedlive on June 7, 2011, 12:53 GMT

    Don bradman must be a good player! He is always compared with sachin. .

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