Tributes to Sanath Jayasuriya December 5, 2007

Inspiring a generation of cricketers



Mahela Jayawardene: "[Sanath] [Jayasuriya] has been a batsman, a senior player, and a bowler, and his loss is going to be huge, especially in the dressing room" © AFP

Sri Lanka's captain and vice-captain, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, paid tribute to their team-mate and former leader, Sanath Jayasuriya, who bowed out of Test cricket at the age of 38 following his side's 88-run win over England in the first Test in Kandy.

After weeks of speculation in the local media, Jayasuriya made his announcement after scoring 78 in Sri Lanka's second innings to help put his side on course for victory. He later chipped in with one final wicket, that of Ravi Bopara, to finish his career with 6973 runs at 40.07 and 98 wickets at 34.34 from 110 Tests.

Jayasuriya made his ODI debut against Australia in Melbourne in December 1989, and his Test debut 14 monrths later in Hamilton. "It is a tremendous loss when you lose someone who's played for 18 years," said Jayawardene after the match. "He's been a batsman, a senior player, and a bowler, and his loss is going to be huge, especially in the dressing room."

Jayasuriya's form in Test cricket has been on the wane for the past three years, and it is widely believed that the selectors had been looking to blood a younger opener in his place. But Jayawardene praised his team-mate for going out on his own terms. "I think he's pretty happy with that decision", he said. "We just need to make sure that with the youngsters coming through, [that] we build another team and improve ourselves."

Sangakkara was even more flowing in his praise of a man he first saw as a spectator at the Asgiriya Stadium during the 1996 World Cup. "That World Cup win probably inspired not just me, but a whole generation of young cricketers to try and play for Sri Lanka," said Sangakkara. "He changed the face of world cricket, especially in the one-day arena. He's a wonderful cricketer, a wonderful man and he's had a wonderful career.

"I think for me personally he's been a pillar of support," added Sangakkara. "He was my first captain and when I was struggling to make the side there was always positive re-enforcement from him, and never a negative word. We have the best memories of him in the dressing room. We'll miss him, but life and cricket moves on, and we'll look ahead with a new side."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo