Jayawardene to step down
In a surprise move, Mahela Jayawardene has announced that he will resign as Sri Lanka captain after the upcoming two-Test series against Pakistan. The decision, announced on Wednesday, comes three days after Sri Lanka lost 4-1 to India in their home ODI series.
Sri Lanka Cricket CEO Duleep Mendis said Jayawardene's decision had been accepted and a new captain would be appointed for the one-day home series against Zimbabwe, which follows the Pakistan tour.
Jayawardene, who sat out Sri Lanka's Twenty20 international against India on Tuesday, called for a meeting with the selectors on Wednesday morning and proposed that the time was right to hand over the captaincy, ensuring his successor had sufficient time to build the team for the 2011 World Cup. He was asked to reconsider but reiterated the time was right, given the heavy season ahead.
He then met Mendis and informed his teammates.
"This is something I have been considering for some time as it has been my long-held belief that my successor should have at least 18 months in the job to imprint his vision on the team for the 2011 World Cup," Jayawardene said in a statement.
"I have concluded that the time has come for fresh leadership to takeover. It was not an easy decision to make because being the Sri Lanka captain has been the source of enormous pride. I hope to play a major part in the team's success as a batsman."
Jayawardene had hinted at the decision last August, in an interview to Cricinfo. "This is a job that I won't do for a long time," he said. "There have to be different challenges. The longer your career progresses, the more you need to focus on your own game and your family."
It is not immediately clear who will succeed him but the obvious choice will be Kumar Sangakkara, the current vice-captain and a close personal friend of Jayawardene's. In that interview, Jayawardene clearly spelled out his ideal succession plan. "Kumar is definitely a suitable person to lead Sri Lanka. His knowledge of the game and his approach is brilliant. He has been a brilliant deputy too. We talk a lot about planning and strategising, so there is not much difference in our thinking, which is very important. If I suddenly lose the hunger to lead then ideally Kumar should take over."
Jayawardene was appointed ODI captain in 2004 and took over the Test captaincy full time from Marvan Atapattu for the 2006 tour of England. One of his best achievements was guiding Sri Lanka to the World Cup final the following year and in 2008 they won the Asia Cup, beating India in the final.
Sri Lanka's away record improved under his leadership, as the team drew Test series in England, New Zealand and the West Indies. He led the team in 26 Tests, winning 15 and losing seven and his win ratio of 62.5% is the highest for any Sri Lankan captain in history. Although his recent one-day form had been patchy, he still scored heavily in Test cricket, averaging 64.70 as captain. Nor did he let his wavering form in one-day cricket affect his captaincy. In 94 ODIs under him, Sri Lanka won 54 and lost 35.