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March 17, 2014
Mahela Jayawardene, the former Sri Lanka captain, will retire from Twenty20 internationals at the end of the World T20. The news came a day after his team-mate, Kumar Sangakkara, announced the tournament will be his last in the format as well.
"The rationale behind retirement is pretty much the same as Sanga's," Jayawardene told Wisden India. "When it is clear that I can't see myself playing in the next ICC World T20, there wasn't much point in me occupying a spot. It makes more sense for a youngster to come into the mix and establish himself."
Jayawardene, 36, has played 49 T20Is to date, and is his nation's leading run-scorer in the format, having hit 1335 runs at 31.78, with a strike rate of 134.17. A technical purist for much of his career, Jayawardene introduced new strokes and an innovative outlook to his game to become arguably Sri Lanka's best T20 batsman. He had not played the reverse sweep for the first 10 years of his international career, but the shot is now among his most productive in limited-overs cricket.
"While I enjoy all formats of the game, and Test cricket is certainly the pinnacle for any player, the journey in Twenty20 cricket has been fascinating," Jayawardene said. "In many ways it helped me get back to my roots, to bat like I used to when I was a schoolboy, for the sheer love of playing attacking shots and expressing myself with full freedom."
Jayawardene is also revered among Sri Lanka's finest captains, and his record at the helm of the T20 side lays out his tactical prowess. In 19 matches under Jayawardene, Sri Lanka won 12, lost six and tied one. He had the reins during Sri Lanka's march to the 2012 World T20 final, having hit a crucial 42 on a Premadasa dustbowl in the semi-final, to propel his team there.
That his retirement came 18 years to the day since Sri Lanka won the World Cup, did not escape Jayawardene. Having lost two World T20 finals, he hoped his swansong would capture something of that 1996 spirit. "That was a big day for Sri Lankan cricket and no one at home will ever forget it. Every year we look back on that date with joy," he said. "Hopefully we can do something special here in this tournament as well. We always come into big tournaments such as this one with a view to showing the world what Sri Lanka is capable of. We take great pride in our performances and it's no different here in Bangladesh."
Jayawardene has taken more catches in international cricket than any other fielder, with 14 of those having come in T20s. He has one T20 century against Zimbabwe in Guyana, making him one of six batsmen to have hit a hundred in all three formats.
Jayawardene also shares a second-wicket partnership record with Sangakkara, having made 166 together against West Indies in 2010. Like Sangakkara, Jayawardene is expected to continue playing franchise-based domestic T20. While T20 retirement is the first step toward winding down his international career, he has indicated the 2015 ODI World Cup remains a goal, and that he will play Tests as long as form, fitness and motivation allow.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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