The fortunes of Sri Lanka in the T 20 World cup has rested fairly and squarely on one individual so far and he has not been the dashing Thilakaratne Dilshan or the master blaster Sanath Jayasuriya but on the absolutely stylish and very elegant Sri Lankanright hander Mahela Jayawardane! It is true that Sri Lanka cricket has had its phases of dependency on players and it was not so long ago that Sanath Jayasuriya and thereafter Thilakaratne Dilshan played such roles. Lets not forget that at one stage and in the case of Dilshan, all he touched appeared to turn to gold as he had the run of his life with the bat during the last year with sponsors and teams queuing up for his signature!
But in the current T 20 world cup the equation has definitely changed and the baton has now been passed on to Mahela Jayawardane, who has grabbed it with both hands and has been running with clear leadership in the batting race. I mean not just in the aggregate of runs but in the manner they have been made up to now!
The name Mahela Jayawardane and Sri Lanka cricket at the moment appear to be inseparable with the latter’s dependency on the former! For starters Jayawardane was written off by some quarters from the T 20 game and was always believed to be more the established game player in the form of Test cricket and ODI’s. The T 20 on the other hand was for the bashers, the aggressive players and the power houses, with Jayawardane actually not being part of any of those segments in reality. But what he has proved to the cricketing world in the present situation is that you need none of the said ingredients to succeed. If you posses the correct technique matched with the required approach then any other factor can never be an issue in modern day T 20 batting. The message has been loud and clear from the bat of Jayawardane!
Thrusted to open from essentially being a middle order player Jayawardane’s transformation to the top of the order has been remarkable. His level of confidence was apparent when he walked up to the strikers end to take the first ball of the innings when his more senior opening partner was at the non strikers end! From there on it has been a case of just one way traffic with Jayawardane’s bat really doing all the talking and not letting the bowlers dictate terms to him.
| Mahela Jayawardane
In both games we have seen him so far, his innings has been the hallmark of quality and class than anything else. On slow pitches where run making has been difficult and lesser mortals have struggled Jayawardane has stood head and shoulders above everybody else on display. Against the Kiwis where the pitch was not conducive for boundaries and quick scoring, Jayawardane’s efficiency was highlighted by both breathtaking and remarkable execution of shots.
The using of his feet was so lithe and the maneuvering of the bowling was exceptional and classic. At no time were the Kiwis allowed any freedom during that innings and at one stage the impression was, here was a batsman batting at both ends! As the rest of the Sri Lankan batting was so poor in comparison! If Jayawardane was disappointed in not going on for something big against the Kiwis, the hapless Zimbabweans felt the full force of his blade in the next game. Their bowling may not have been exactly the type that caused ripples amongst batting lineups but the Sri Lankan batting on that day too wasn’t very much to write home about either! With the top order falling like ninepins, it had to be once again the Jayawardane show! And what a show it happened to be the second time around. He didn’t only stamp his class but helped Sri Lanka to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation when an early exit from the tournament was looming!
Starting from where he left against the Kiwis, Jayawardane made the Zimbabwe bowlers virtual prisoners of his onslaught. He was hapless and virtually caged with no help from any quarters. Once again it was complete dominance by Jayawardane who in everybody’s eyes has turned out to be a class act in the T 20 game too! Being the only Sri Lankan batsman worth his salt from the recent IPL, the reliance on Jayawardane is even more evident by his current purple patch.
If one was to dig deep in to Jayawardane the cricketer, it is clear to all and sundry that Jayawardane is at the moment an indispensable member in the Sri Lankan line up. From his early age when he made his Test debut as a promising 20 year old just out of school, Jayawardane has never been a disappointment. With his impressive record up to date which includes a mountain of runs in all forms of the game, Jayawardane has now assumed the mantle of Sri Lanka’s leading batsman, bypassing the former great Aravinda De Silva.
And then later on in his career when the extra burden of captaincy was placed on him, he appeared to carry it as it was something of feather weight or even lighter as he prospered against almost every situation overcoming them with a high degree of success and maturing like a good wine. If his player record as batsman first and then captain which was even more impressive and phenomenal, his decision to retire from the captaincy at a very young cricketing age could only be described as bemusing to the ardent fan and the onlooker!
The day Jayawardane announced his decision to step down from the captaincy it was the game that became poorer in the Island nation which is still struggling to come to terms with the shocking news. Thankfully he didn’t decide to give it up all together which is a huge consolation to every cricket fan as the entertainment and quality of his cricket has been unstoppable.
Jayawardane the cricketer has always been loved by cricket fans over the world not just for his batting, but for his honest, sincere and very transparent attitude. He has been a perfect ambassador for cricket in Sri Lanka with his very gentle and simplistic approach to life. A gentleman to his finger tips and a very good leader of men it is earnestly hoped that the willow he wields will continue to bear fruit in the form of runs for the country and above all the Lion flag will flutter more vigorously in the West Indies with the passing of every impressive Jayawardane innings!
Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator