Mahela Jayawardene: The silent assassin
Dubai: Mahela Jayawardene is cricket's silent assassin. He never looks like one of those fearsome batsmen ready for the kill. Even when he plays his strokes, he creates no fear in the bowler but by the end of the day he would have inflicted enormous damage on the opposition. He not only destroys the analysis of all the bowlers but also guides his team to an impressive total.
The England team realised it the hard way during the recent Tests at Galle and Colombo. Jayawardene piles up runs unassumingly and before anyone realises he would have reached a century.
In the Galle Test, he cracked a spectacular 180, hitting 22 boundaries and three sixes with perfect timing and precision.
Jayawardene's ability to pick the gaps with the least of effort places him among the best batsmen in the world. His calm personality can be very misleading. In fact, this trait in him had made many believe that he is only good for Tests and not for the limited-over versions — Twenty20 and One Day Internationals.
Jayawardene silenced them too in his usual calm manner. He has scored over 10,000 runs not only in Tests but also in one-dayers and even in Twenty20 he has scored one century and six half centuries from 35 matches.
Even his captaincy is like his batting; though he may not look aggressive he is very authoritative on the field.
During the recent Sri Lanka series against Pakistan in the UAE, Jayawardene struggled for runs. Even though he fell for small scores, the strokes he played during those short stays at the wicket were a treat to watch.
Hunger for runs
The fact that he could execute his favourite graceful cover drive with ease revealed that it is just a matter of time before he is among the runs.
Jayawardene's hunger for runs and patience are the two qualities that are very inspiring. It is this hunger that made him successful in Twenty20 too and fetched him a huge value in the Indian Premier League (IPL). It was Jayawardene who proved that Twenty20 cricket is not just bang-bang cricket but even a traditional batsman can turn the tables on the opposition.
Jayawardene critics point out that he is more successful on home wickets than abroad, but he is among the few batsmen whose average is over 51 in Test matches.
He is not just a fine batsman but a great fielder too. Once while analysing Muttiah Muralitharan's spells it was found that Jayawardene has taken the highest number of catches off his bowling. In fact, he had also figured among the fielders who had produced the maximum run outs.
On the field he is an asset for any captain. Being a shrewd thinker of the game, his strategic moves have often caused the downfall of the opposition.
Unfortunately, though he led Sri Lanka to the final of the 2007 World Cup he could not win it and in February 2009 he quit the captaincy.
Though Jayawardene has agreed to a second stint as captain his task is cumbersome now as the team is passing through a tough phase.
Once during an interview in Dubai I asked him whether he felt he should have done better in his career. His reply reflected the sportsman in him.
"I could have done better, but given the roles that I have played in the team I feel I've managed to win matches for my team than just play for personal achievements," he said.