Sri Lanka news July 14, 2014

Mahela in the league of SL greats - Murali

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Retiring batsman Mahela Jayawardene is one of Sri Lanka's greatest with the bat and as captain, Muttiah Muralitharan has said. Murali played 96 Tests alongside Jayawardene - 28 of those under Jayawardene's leadership, from 2006 to 2009.

"He is one of the greatest players who has ever played for Sri Lanka," Murali said. "He has a superb record. We have him and Kumar Sangakkara from the younger group, but when you consider great Sri Lankan batsmen, he is in that group with Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya, who have all contributed so much to Sri Lankan cricket in the batting side.

"Mahela made my job a lot easier, because he would play long innings, get a lot of runs, and give me a lot to bowl at. At home he was a very consistent batsman. He had a compact technique from the time he came in, and he grabbed his chances. At the time he arrived, it was very hard to get into the team because there were a lot of senior batsmen. Somehow he performed well and got into the team. I had heard of him for some time before he played international cricket."

Murali also affirmed Jayawardene's reputation for scoring hard, important runs for the team. Jayawardene's 374 is the highest score by a Sri Lanka batsman, but Murali remembers his innings in the next match most fondly.

"The 123 against South Africa at the P Sara Oval was probably the best one, because no one else could play like that in that match. He was the only batsman to get a century. All the best players play very well in the big matches, and Mahela is one of those. He was very good at handling pressure and tried to always put the team in the best position."

The Murali-Mahela partnership is the most prolific bowler-fielder combination in Tests, accounting for 67 wickets. Jayawardene had memorably taken the edge off Pragyan Ojha in Murali's farewell Test, to give the bowler his 800th wicket.

"He was always good off me, and I preferred him to be at slip because he had very fast reflexes, a good technique and good hands. I think taking slip catches off spinners is one of the hardest things, but he was the best at that. He started off at short leg, and he took a lot of catches there as well, before moving into slip. I always felt comfortable with him there."

One of Murali's most successful periods as a bowler had also come under Jayawardene's captaincy. He took 186 wickets at 21.25 when Jayawardene was at the helm.

"Mahela was very good with the strategy side of things and setting fields, and again he was one of the best. He understood the game a lot and knew quickly when things were changing. He gave all his players a lot of confidence, and especially backed the youngsters, so that was good.

"He was a quiet person in the dressing room - he didn't say that much but he concentrated on the game. He didn't try to get into any controversy. He just stayed focused and played well."

Jayawardene was particularly prolific at home, thanks to an excellent technique against spin bowling, Murali said. "At the start he was a bit vulnerable to seam bowling, but he worked on that. But he was always good for spin, because he read the ball well and used his feet well. He has scored a lot on turning tracks because of that."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jimmyvida on July 21, 2014, 23:55 GMT

    Not only great as SL batsman but the world. A true genius at his art.

  • WankhedeMainAayaBhoot on July 16, 2014, 12:18 GMT

    Another finest sports-person of the era has decided to hang up his boots.

    Respect and Wishes..

  • gautm on July 16, 2014, 2:08 GMT

    Ha Ha.. The home tracks bully finally calls it a day.. Was all at sea throughout his career in overseas conditions...

  • on July 15, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    A humble man is ready for retire

  • ARad on July 15, 2014, 12:22 GMT

    MJ is Sri Lanka's most astute captain and one of the most stylish batsmen in the world. He is also Sri Lanka's best communicator (instead of KS) if you go by the content (rather than fluff and platitudes) and one of the best slip fielders ever. It is unfortunate that he may not be able to have the record for most number of catches on the field in Tests - it is within reach and there is no reason for MJ to retire yet given he is still making runs.

  • RoshanF on July 15, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    Silk laden touches, near-effortless "ball friendly" batting were his forte. He rarely seemed to hit the ball with any real power and yet the ball would go to the boundary almost as quickly. Some would question his record in bouncy, swinging conditions but it was not his fault that he together with all other Lankan batsmen never got to play series with 5 test matches in England, Australia or South Africa as was the case with say Tendulkar or Lara. Longer series build batsmen's abiity to cope with conditiions otherwise alien to him. This was not a luxury at Jayawardene's reach. The only real weakness he had was to deliveries just outside the off which would swing away, where he seemed to hang out his bat not so convincingly. I would put him just below Aravinda and Sanga only because they were slightly better in seaming and swing friendly conditions. Brilliant Sri Lankan all time great and a thorough gentleman.

  • chrismpofu on July 15, 2014, 11:12 GMT

    He is one of the best Lanka has ever produced.But it would rather be unfair to compare him with modern greats like Ponting, Kallis,Dravid, because he has scored most of his runs in srilanka and particularly in SSC. He ha been very inconsistent for a player like him in Odis.

  • Pathiyal on July 15, 2014, 9:26 GMT

    it is a bit disappointing that we won't be able to see these legends in the test arena where we wanted to and they belong to. i pesonally have cherished their (both mahela & Sanga) great innings which i have seen in plenty. they are masters of the game in terms of batting, fielding, captaincy, field placements, they way they conduct themselves in and out of the game. congrats to both of them! the painful question is that how many of them still exist in the game??????

  • cricketdebator on July 15, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    Good and sensible decision by Jayawardene. At 37, he has gracefully decided to make way for some young player. As a West Indian, I hope that Chanderpaul at 40 will do the decent thing and resign as well. Also think that Gayle should be dropped since he is hardly contributing anything to the team these days. Furthermore, he is a liability on the field, and so too is Chanderpaul.

  • ygkd on July 15, 2014, 6:29 GMT

    The bloke played a gross of Tests (that's a dozen dozens), plus one, and yet he only played about a dozen each in Australasia, Africa and England. And only four in the Caribbean. So, it may seem strange to say of someone with such a long career that we didn't see enough of him (outside of Asia, I mean). The Lankans need to tour more (although it is not exactly their fault that they don't do so). The current state of affairs is not in the game's best interests. The Lankans are an exciting team and they won't improve overseas if they aren't there often enough. Mahela Jayawardene - one I always wanted to watch.

  • jimmyvida on July 21, 2014, 23:55 GMT

    Not only great as SL batsman but the world. A true genius at his art.

  • WankhedeMainAayaBhoot on July 16, 2014, 12:18 GMT

    Another finest sports-person of the era has decided to hang up his boots.

    Respect and Wishes..

  • gautm on July 16, 2014, 2:08 GMT

    Ha Ha.. The home tracks bully finally calls it a day.. Was all at sea throughout his career in overseas conditions...

  • on July 15, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    A humble man is ready for retire

  • ARad on July 15, 2014, 12:22 GMT

    MJ is Sri Lanka's most astute captain and one of the most stylish batsmen in the world. He is also Sri Lanka's best communicator (instead of KS) if you go by the content (rather than fluff and platitudes) and one of the best slip fielders ever. It is unfortunate that he may not be able to have the record for most number of catches on the field in Tests - it is within reach and there is no reason for MJ to retire yet given he is still making runs.

  • RoshanF on July 15, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    Silk laden touches, near-effortless "ball friendly" batting were his forte. He rarely seemed to hit the ball with any real power and yet the ball would go to the boundary almost as quickly. Some would question his record in bouncy, swinging conditions but it was not his fault that he together with all other Lankan batsmen never got to play series with 5 test matches in England, Australia or South Africa as was the case with say Tendulkar or Lara. Longer series build batsmen's abiity to cope with conditiions otherwise alien to him. This was not a luxury at Jayawardene's reach. The only real weakness he had was to deliveries just outside the off which would swing away, where he seemed to hang out his bat not so convincingly. I would put him just below Aravinda and Sanga only because they were slightly better in seaming and swing friendly conditions. Brilliant Sri Lankan all time great and a thorough gentleman.

  • chrismpofu on July 15, 2014, 11:12 GMT

    He is one of the best Lanka has ever produced.But it would rather be unfair to compare him with modern greats like Ponting, Kallis,Dravid, because he has scored most of his runs in srilanka and particularly in SSC. He ha been very inconsistent for a player like him in Odis.

  • Pathiyal on July 15, 2014, 9:26 GMT

    it is a bit disappointing that we won't be able to see these legends in the test arena where we wanted to and they belong to. i pesonally have cherished their (both mahela & Sanga) great innings which i have seen in plenty. they are masters of the game in terms of batting, fielding, captaincy, field placements, they way they conduct themselves in and out of the game. congrats to both of them! the painful question is that how many of them still exist in the game??????

  • cricketdebator on July 15, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    Good and sensible decision by Jayawardene. At 37, he has gracefully decided to make way for some young player. As a West Indian, I hope that Chanderpaul at 40 will do the decent thing and resign as well. Also think that Gayle should be dropped since he is hardly contributing anything to the team these days. Furthermore, he is a liability on the field, and so too is Chanderpaul.

  • ygkd on July 15, 2014, 6:29 GMT

    The bloke played a gross of Tests (that's a dozen dozens), plus one, and yet he only played about a dozen each in Australasia, Africa and England. And only four in the Caribbean. So, it may seem strange to say of someone with such a long career that we didn't see enough of him (outside of Asia, I mean). The Lankans need to tour more (although it is not exactly their fault that they don't do so). The current state of affairs is not in the game's best interests. The Lankans are an exciting team and they won't improve overseas if they aren't there often enough. Mahela Jayawardene - one I always wanted to watch.

  • Charindra on July 15, 2014, 6:10 GMT

    Great to hear Murali talking about the guy who took so many catches off him. What a partnership that was!

  • John_Geo on July 15, 2014, 3:37 GMT

    Though Jayawadene is mostly talked about for his batting, his real strength lies in his cricketing knowledge and leadership. He is a remarkably good reader of the game and also an exceptionally good slip fielder with fast reflexes. In terms of batting, I do not think he was a player capable of performing in all conditions but was a treat to watch when he gets going. His impatience and temperament was always got in the way in his batting. When it comes to batting, I would put him behind other Sri Lankan greats such as Roy Dias, Aravinda, Sangakkara, Sidath, and Jayasooriya.

  • dvs105 on July 15, 2014, 3:28 GMT

    Mahela was an absolute team man and when on song was a treat to watch. I loved watching him bat. I agree with jj0685 - Sri Lanka do not get too many tests outside arguably because of a financially weak board. If Mahela had been given the opportunity to play more tests abroad it would have improved his game and his overall record. That being said ..I don't think he would want to be remembered for 10,000 runs..that's not Mahela ..he'd probably want to be remembered for the T20 WC win and for being finalists in the ODI WC.

  • Hasi21 on July 15, 2014, 3:06 GMT

    No matter whats the stats says.. He was great to watch and My All time favorite player ever...

  • hayagriva on July 15, 2014, 0:37 GMT

    Good luck Mahela... World Cricket will miss a modern master of the game!!!

  • jj0685 on July 14, 2014, 23:47 GMT

    @its.rachit. Please consider this before writing your comments. Sure Jayawardne's average outside the subcontinent is not great. The reason is that SL do not get much opportunities to play outside the sub-continent. For example India got a 5 test series in England during the English summer, but SL only get a 2 test series pre- English summer. If SL got the matches that India get, Mahela's average would be in the 50's. I consider him a true great in the same class as SRT, Ponting, Dravid and Lara.

  • CricketPissek on July 14, 2014, 22:25 GMT

    @ its.rachit - absolutely. if you look purely at the numbers, he has not done his talent justice outside the subcontinent. His greatness however, is not for being an allround run machine like Sanga, Lara, Sachin, Ponting etc. Mahela is great to us Sri Lankans in how he manages to score runs in unthinkable situations where others fail. There are obvious knocks like that 100 in the WC final or the 374 against SA where SL won by an innings (it wasnt a dead pitch with a boring draw). I personally think about the perfect ODI innings 100 against NZ in the 07 WC Semi Final. His 167 when others couldn't pass 36 in 1998 against New Zealand in Galle when he was only 20 years old. NZ only totalled 193 and 112! His unimaginable match savings innings at Lords 2006. His world record 418 catches and always being there to take an edge off Murali. His GENIUS field placements. THIS is what makes him great for us. If you only think in numbers, I cannot really explain this I'm afraid.

  • on July 14, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    A real star, I consider him a great batsman and even better captain, he always looked for some clever moves and must have extended his tenure as captain. But SriLankans always seem to be sensitive in these issues. Cricket fans will miss such a great legend.

  • Cpt.Meanster on July 14, 2014, 17:24 GMT

    Pretty much every team in world cricket is in transition now. India lost it's great pillars of batting in Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman. Pakistan have some very young players, Australia no longer have their great stars that made them an unbeatable force, England have lost KP and many other wonderful players that took them to no.1, SA no longer have Kallis and Smith, WI and NZ both have new look teams too. Really a huge outflow of great players from every team. Murali is absolutely right. Mahela is one of the greats; a true match winner and a champion.

  • its.rachit on July 14, 2014, 16:40 GMT

    Jayawardena averages 32 outside the subcontinent . dont know how it qualifies him as a great batsman .. great batsman in Sri lanka - YES Definitely .. but outside the subcontinent - very ordinary ... it is hard to overlook such ordinary stats ....

  • dns07 on July 14, 2014, 14:49 GMT

    End of an Era! Thank you for the great memories!

  • on July 14, 2014, 14:26 GMT

    The timing is right..but we will not only miss Mahela the bastman, but surely will miss Mahela the tactician and the passion when he plays for SL. He gets the best out of everyone, never gives up. Great attitude for a cricketer

  • on July 14, 2014, 13:55 GMT

    Mahela was the unofficial/official captain of SL team from the time he became vice captain under Sanath Jayasuriaya in 1999. He always put his team before himself and that's what made him special among all other professional cricketers. He reads the game better than any other cricketer Sri Lanka ever produced.

  • TheKeeper on July 14, 2014, 13:21 GMT

    Mahela's score of 374 is not just the highest score by any Sri Lankan batsman, it is also the world record for "any" right-handed batsman. Only Brian Charles Lara and Mathew Hayden have higher scores in test cricket and they are both left-hand batsmen.

  • starcy on July 14, 2014, 12:50 GMT

    Great combo unfortuanately i hav never seen murali in test

  • on July 14, 2014, 12:34 GMT

    Mahela Jayawardene is the Proud of SL Team he always give helping hand to his team in difficult situations..! he has done outstanding job in his whole career and won many crucial matches for his team! he always performed extremely well when his team needed him! Mahela have some outstanding records in his test career and played brilliant cricket! without the shadow of doubt Mahela Jayawardene is the World Class Batsman...! SL fanns will miss him soooo much bcoz he was the big asset for lankan team! but it is very good news that Mahela will continue to play oneday and t20 format...! Mahela and Sanga r the Greatest Legends in Srilanka Team Salute to their Greatness in World Cricket!!!

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  • on July 14, 2014, 12:34 GMT

    Mahela Jayawardene is the Proud of SL Team he always give helping hand to his team in difficult situations..! he has done outstanding job in his whole career and won many crucial matches for his team! he always performed extremely well when his team needed him! Mahela have some outstanding records in his test career and played brilliant cricket! without the shadow of doubt Mahela Jayawardene is the World Class Batsman...! SL fanns will miss him soooo much bcoz he was the big asset for lankan team! but it is very good news that Mahela will continue to play oneday and t20 format...! Mahela and Sanga r the Greatest Legends in Srilanka Team Salute to their Greatness in World Cricket!!!

  • starcy on July 14, 2014, 12:50 GMT

    Great combo unfortuanately i hav never seen murali in test

  • TheKeeper on July 14, 2014, 13:21 GMT

    Mahela's score of 374 is not just the highest score by any Sri Lankan batsman, it is also the world record for "any" right-handed batsman. Only Brian Charles Lara and Mathew Hayden have higher scores in test cricket and they are both left-hand batsmen.

  • on July 14, 2014, 13:55 GMT

    Mahela was the unofficial/official captain of SL team from the time he became vice captain under Sanath Jayasuriaya in 1999. He always put his team before himself and that's what made him special among all other professional cricketers. He reads the game better than any other cricketer Sri Lanka ever produced.

  • on July 14, 2014, 14:26 GMT

    The timing is right..but we will not only miss Mahela the bastman, but surely will miss Mahela the tactician and the passion when he plays for SL. He gets the best out of everyone, never gives up. Great attitude for a cricketer

  • dns07 on July 14, 2014, 14:49 GMT

    End of an Era! Thank you for the great memories!

  • its.rachit on July 14, 2014, 16:40 GMT

    Jayawardena averages 32 outside the subcontinent . dont know how it qualifies him as a great batsman .. great batsman in Sri lanka - YES Definitely .. but outside the subcontinent - very ordinary ... it is hard to overlook such ordinary stats ....

  • Cpt.Meanster on July 14, 2014, 17:24 GMT

    Pretty much every team in world cricket is in transition now. India lost it's great pillars of batting in Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman. Pakistan have some very young players, Australia no longer have their great stars that made them an unbeatable force, England have lost KP and many other wonderful players that took them to no.1, SA no longer have Kallis and Smith, WI and NZ both have new look teams too. Really a huge outflow of great players from every team. Murali is absolutely right. Mahela is one of the greats; a true match winner and a champion.

  • on July 14, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    A real star, I consider him a great batsman and even better captain, he always looked for some clever moves and must have extended his tenure as captain. But SriLankans always seem to be sensitive in these issues. Cricket fans will miss such a great legend.

  • CricketPissek on July 14, 2014, 22:25 GMT

    @ its.rachit - absolutely. if you look purely at the numbers, he has not done his talent justice outside the subcontinent. His greatness however, is not for being an allround run machine like Sanga, Lara, Sachin, Ponting etc. Mahela is great to us Sri Lankans in how he manages to score runs in unthinkable situations where others fail. There are obvious knocks like that 100 in the WC final or the 374 against SA where SL won by an innings (it wasnt a dead pitch with a boring draw). I personally think about the perfect ODI innings 100 against NZ in the 07 WC Semi Final. His 167 when others couldn't pass 36 in 1998 against New Zealand in Galle when he was only 20 years old. NZ only totalled 193 and 112! His unimaginable match savings innings at Lords 2006. His world record 418 catches and always being there to take an edge off Murali. His GENIUS field placements. THIS is what makes him great for us. If you only think in numbers, I cannot really explain this I'm afraid.