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Mahela in the league of SL greats - Murali

Andrew Fidel Fernando

July 14, 2014

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

Muttiah Muralitharan is congratulated by Mahela Jayawardene after dismissing Junaid Siddique, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Dhaka, 4th day, December 30, 2008
Murali: 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 © AFP
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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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Jimmyvida on (July 21, 2014, 23:55 GMT)

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

Posted by 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..

Posted by 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...

Posted by   on (July 15, 2014, 13:38 GMT)

A humble man is ready for retire

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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??????

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

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