One could see it coming. For nearly two decades now, Mahela Jayawardene has shouldered the burden of Sri Lanka on his capable shoulders, and has done so with admirable success, in such a sublime manner that you cannot but have great respect for the man. Over this elongated period of time, he has transformed himself from a bustling talent to a highly dependable batsman, and one who went on lead the country in a shrewd manner in all formats of the game. The longevity of Jayawardene’s career can be judged from the fact that when he began playing Ranatunga and de Silva were still very much around, and he is currently the only Lankan player to have debuted in the 90s.
While there are still four matches left for Jayawardene before he can hang up his boots in the five-day format, he has already done more than enough to be remembered as a legend of the game. His record speaks for itself – 11493 runs in 145 matches with 33 hundreds and 48 fifties. His average is just a shade over 50, the benchmark of a great player. Jayawardene’s highest Test score of 374 is further proof of his legendary status. Nothing much needs to be said about the batting genius as far as his overall numbers are concerned.
Even as Jayawardene’s record stands on par with the best in the world, his comparatively average performance away from home will stand in the way of him being remembered as an all-time great, at least in comparison to the likes of Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting and Kallis. While Jayawardene averages a healthy 61 at home, the same average drops to 41 when he is batting away from home. While a drop is expected, in Jayawardene’s case it is too stark.
Breaking down Jayawardene’s stats further, he has 22 tons at home and only 10 away, apart from one at a neutral venue. Jayawardene averages only 31 in Australia, and only 28 each in New Zealand and South Africa each. His performance is slightly better in England, where he averages 36 with two hundreds. The veteran Sri Lankan has only managed one hundred in Australia, and only one each in New Zealand, India and Pakistan. Jayawardene hasn’t registered a single hundred in South Africa, which will stand as a major hindrance in him being termed a complete match-winner.
Jayawardene was his best at home, both as player and captain. His 374 against South Africa back in 2006 was a study in concentration, and a literal case study on how to compile a massive knock. As captain, he was astute, and was among the first leaders to openly welcome the DRS. His utilisation of the same during Ajantha Mendis’ debut series against India at home will be remembered for the number of accurate decisions he eked out of the system. He was a valuable fielder as well, constantly claiming smart slip catches off Muralitharan.
To sum up Jayawardene’s Test career, he would be remembered as an intelligent skipper and great batsman, who could have been greater had he done better in highly challenging conditions abroad.
--By A Cricket Analyst