Jayawardene resigns February 12, 2009

Jayawardene's decision a shock - Muralitharan

Cricinfo staff

Muttiah Muralitharan: "Under Mahela's tenure, the culture of the dressing room changed for the better. He encouraged all players to take greater responsibility" © AFP

Muttiah Muralitharan has said he knew Mahela Jayawardene was planning to quit the captaincy but the decision yesterday left the team in shock. Jayawardene said he was stepping down to give his successor enough time to settle down before the 2011 World Cup but Muralitharan felt off-field politics had also contributed to the decision.

"Mahela Jayawardene's decision to resign was a shock to the team," Muralitharan wrote in his syndicated column. "I knew that he had been thinking about the best time to stand down for several months. However, knowing Mahela well, it was no surprise that he chose to leave on his own accord.

"He endured lots of off-field pressure and politics, as any captain does in Sri Lanka, and then walked away with his head held high."

Muralitharan pointed to Jayawardene's impressive record as captain of the Test team over the last three years - his win-loss ratio of 62.5% is the best by a Sri Lankan captain - and said his ability to manage the younger players and see the team through the transition phase was "brilliant".

"Under Mahela's tenure, the culture of the dressing room changed for the better. He encouraged all players to take greater responsibility. He provided us all with the freedom to participate in the team's development and treated everyone, no matter how senior, on the same terms."

Former Sri Lanka captain Michael Tissera said he was not surprised by Jayawardene's decision because of the flak he had been getting from a certain section of the media about his own form and that of the team.

"There is a limit to what one can take and I am very sorry for Jayawardene that he had to take this decision," Tissera said. "It must have been rather stressful to be on tour and be criticised regularly. He was a very good captain who kept the team together and took them to the World Cup final. I rate him pretty high."

Ranjan Madugalle, the former Sri Lanka captain, now an ICC match referee, told Cricinfo he respected Jayawardene's decision. "One must respect Mahela for his decision to step down as captain because he has given whoever is succeeding him ample time to prepare himself for the next World Cup in 2011. He is one of the most respected and admired captains in cricket today."