MAHELA JAYAWARDENE - Legend of Legends | Daily News

MAHELA JAYAWARDENE - Legend of Legends

Gift from the cricketing gods
Mahela Jayawardene diving and grabbing the  catch  and holding the ball aloft waving it to the spectators signalling Muralitheran's record setting 800th Test wicket with team mates rushing to congratulate Muralitheran after capturing that wicket. At the Galle International Cricket Stadium (on right).
Mahela Jayawardene diving and grabbing the catch and holding the ball aloft waving it to the spectators signalling Muralitheran's record setting 800th Test wicket with team mates rushing to congratulate Muralitheran after capturing that wicket. At the G

In the pre-Test cricket era, undoubtedly the best captain produced by the country was that gentleman cricketer  Michael Tissera from the distinguished stock of Thomian, Nondescripts Cricket Club and Colombo Cricket Club fame.

 He was the first to lead us to unofficial Test cricket victories against India and later Pakistan. Pity that the country could not have attained Test status during his heyday.

After Tissera and the captain who shone like a beacon and took the game to great heights in international cricket in all forms of the game and who has no equal was the simple, unassuming, clever and aggressive DENAGAMAGE PRABOTH MAHELA De SILVA JAYAWARDENE of  Nalanda College and Sinhalese Sports Club fame. While he  is our ‘SPORTS LEGEND’ this week,   he is, in effect,  the ‘LEGEND’ of legends.

JAYAWARDENE as a youngster learnt the rudiments of the game at Nalanda. At   an early age he showed great promise.  His coaches and the big crowds that flocked to watch him in action in inter-school cricket predicted the pinnacle of cricket that awaited this talented and stylish cricketer.


 JAYAWARDENE lived up to those expectations.  The bottom line was that records, in batting, fielding and as CAPTAIN MARVEL fell on him like a cricketing avalanche.

The records that he set up that would have made any other ordinary mortal arrogant. He flicked these trappings as a speck of dust on this broad shoulders.  He left the field and carried himself  as an example and in a blaze of glory as a simple and like able guy.   

JAYAWARDENE first made it to the Sri Lanka team as a replacement in the tour of South Africa. I was on that tour covering it for the ‘DAILY NEWS’ and the ‘SUNDAY OBSERVER’ and my first glimpse of him in the nets was enough to convince me and to predict a champion in the making.

Career began to unspool

As his career began to unspool, it was obvious that he was a special gift to the game from the cricketing gods. Cricketing gods don’t look benignly on every cricketer, but they had showered a special blessing on the like able JAYAWARDENA to go showcase his class and special gifts in every cricketing nation in the world.  He emerged  mercurial and amazing and unparalleled .   As a batsman he was of the classical mould. He had the rare attributes of what a great batsman is made out of. Like in life as he is still doing,  he offered a straight bat,  the full face of the bat to ball, began to accumulate bags full of runs in all forms of the game.

JAYAWARDENE was elegant and exquisite in his stroke play. His footwork and timing was first class. To him there was no hall mark of excelling in a particular stroke.

All the strokes

 He had all the strokes in his bag. As he  unwound he would send   the ball screeching to the boundary in whatever position on the field and once it beat the fielder it sped to the boundary like a bullet train. Such was the power he generated off his bat.             

As a fielder he was safe as the Bank of England. He was brilliant as a close in fielder, especially in the most difficult position – slips – and once the ball sliced off the batsmen’s edge he would, with his magnetic palms attract  the most difficult of catches.  There was  no fuss. It was natural  while other fielders huff and puff to take the catch. When stationed at slip, he would concentrate on each delivery and watch the batsman’s bat and once it took the edge, it sounded the death knell of the batsman. He had what is called the sixth sense  and no catch was difficult for him. Dropped catches were not on his plate.

Cricket fanatic     

I was in the company of a cricket fanatic and the inventor of the ‘CATCH IT’ fielding machine Bertrem Jayasuriya at Galle Cricket Stadium when he gobbled the catch off the snick off Indian tailender Prajhan Ohja.       

That blinder of a catch signaled Offie Muttiah Muralitheran’s historic 800th wicket. It was the faster ball from Muralitheran that took the edge and the ball was travelling when JAYAWARDENE made the grab and celebrated the catch holding the ball aloft.

The then President Mahinda Rajapakse took time off his many onerous duties to be there and celebrate the history making feat of Muralitheran and marvel at the catch taken by JAYAWARDENE.  As a captain JAYAWARDENE was the best that a country could wish for. He had a superb cricketing brain able to read a wicket well, study what the opposition would be like, know when and what bowler to toss in and he had the knack of psyching a batsman or a team with his intelligent field placing. 

Best from every member

By example he got the best from every member at his command. They would play from out of their skins to deliver for the skipper. That was because he never demanded respect but got it by example. When he had enough of captaining the country – leading them to many a Test, 50-over, Twenty20 victory, he said enough is enough and quit giving an opportunity for a youngster to sport the mantle of captaincy. But his successor was found wanting and with the game taking a tumble, the authorities requested him to come back as captain. 

And after a lot of thought and in order to take cricket to the pinnacle,  he came back and after resurrecting the game went out, again,  in a blaze of glory.

He alone was Monarch

 That was JAYAWARDENE for you. A once-in-a life time cricketer. There were many who tried to emulate him. But he alone was monarch.

During his formative and blossoming years, a misfortune that took place in the family when his younger brother died young after suffering a brain tumor had him devastated. It broke his heart, but not his determination to succeed for his brother. But accepting ‘that god’s will must be done’, it took him awhile to recover. And promised that every success on the field he would dedicate to his brother and the success he achieved would certainly have made his brother looking down from the abode of god make him rest in peace. He and his brother were like con-joined twins and the separation would have been galling to the elder sibling. But that is life.

Introduced to the game

JAYAWARDENE was introduced to the game by his cricket loving father SENERATH and mother SUNILA who had him enrolled at the Lionel Mendis Cricket School at the NCC. His records as his illustrious cricketing career unwound are too numerous to mention but they are all chronicled in books and places that matter.    JAYAWARDENE debuted against India at the R.Premadasa Stadium in 1997. In that TEST Sri Lanka walloped the highest ever Test total - 952 or 6. He starred in that score with an elegant 68 runs --his baptism to big time cricket. He showed his hunger for run making by making 167 against New Zealand and 242 against India. Of the many records to his credit the standouts were the 374 he made against South Africa as captain and the record breaking 624 run partnership for any wicket with his close buddy Kumar Sangakkara at the SSC.

Cricketer of the year

He was chosen as ‘Widen Cricketer of the year’ in 2007 and also has a century in a World Cup final against India in 2011 and a semi-final against New Zealand in 2007.

JAYAWARDENE has the record of having made three figure scores against all Test playing countries. Other highlights worth mentioning are – International Cricket Council‘s captain of the year 2007, captain of the World International team 2006. One achievement he enjoyed most was when as captain the country won the ‘Spirit of Cricket Awards’ in 2007 and 2008. It is the dream of every batsman to score a century on the hallowed turf of the holy land of cricket - Lord’s’ – JAYAWARDENE did it twice.

 JAYAWARDENE played in many Indian Premier League teams and England honored him by inviting him to be their batting coach a hitherto unattained achievement by a Sri Lankan cricketer.

Magnificent job

At the time of writing he is doing a magnificent job as a commentator for Sony Sports. His descriptions of the action in the middle and his expert comments have made him one, if not the best  in the business and received by the millions of viewers with respect because bias is not his style. To detail all his achievements will require reams of newsprint. Suffice to spell out his career Stats his  in a nutshell  –

TESTS 149 – RUNS – 11,814, HUNDREDS 34 - FIFTIES 50 – TOP SCORE  374 – CATCHES – 205 - ODIs –448 – RUNS 12,650 – HUNDREDS 19 – FIFTIES 77 – TOP SCORE – 144 – CATCHES – 218 – FIRST CLASS – MATCHES – 237 – RUNS – 17,838 – HUNDREDS - 51 – FIFTIES – 80 – CATCHES – 305. 

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