Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lankan spin legend has called his former teammate and the ICC’s latest Hall of Fame inductee Mahela Jayawardene one of the game’s “great thinkers”.
Lauding him for his contribution to not just his country but world cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan wrote in an open letter that Mahela Jayawardene is one of the most important players in Sri Lankan cricket history.
Muttiah Muralitharan: Mahela Jayawardane One Of The Most Important Players In Sri Lankan Cricket History
Mahela Jayawardene appeared in 652 international matches representing Sri Lanka in a career spanning about 18 years. During his international career, he also formed a healthy relationship and friendship with fellow veteran player Kumar Sangakkara. He is the first player in the history of Sri Lankan cricket to score over 10,000 Test runs and is also the second Sri Lankan player to score more than 10,000 runs in ODIs after Sanath Jayasuriya.
“You played so many wonderful innings and were always happy to be in the team, getting a lot of runs. There was less pressure on me to take wickets because once you put on all those runs, my job became easy. That is why you are one of the most important players in Sri Lankan cricket history,” Muttiah Muralitharan said.
“More than that though, you are a great human being and a very soft, kind guy away from cricket. In sport, everyone sees that champions are always very competitive. On the field, you had this ability to switch on, you were a great person to be around and play with,” Muttiah Muralitharan said.
“You were much quieter than me! You know I talk a lot and there were a few others in the dressing room to do the talking but you were quieter, you concentrated so much on the game at the time, you were glued to the match even while in the dressing room.”
The 44-year-old Mahela Jayawardene retired as one of Sri Lanka’s greatest ever players, a key member of the Sri Lankan team that won the T20 World Cup in 2014 and reached four other major ICC finals. The former Sri Lankan captain was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday ahead of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup final alongside former South Africa all-rounder Shaun Pollock and ex England batter Janette Brittin.
Muttiah Muralitharan: Mahela Jayawardene’s Induction In Hall Of Fame Is A Reward For The Toil Over The Years And Contribution To Sri Lanka
He is the third Sri Lankan player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame after another batting great and former skipper Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan himself.
“It isn’t just for one individual moment that you are being inducted into the Hall of Fame, it’s a reward for the toil over the years and everything you contributed for Sri Lanka,” Muttiah Muralitharan wrote.
“Those are all taken into consideration when choosing who is inducted and the ICC thinks it is right that you are the next Sri Lankan to be chosen, to join Kumar Sangakkara and me in the Hall of Fame. You have been selected because as a captain you were very successful, you consistently delivered as a batter, and then as a fielder, you took a lot of catches – more than anyone else. You have done everyone in Sri Lanka proud.”
Mahela Jayawardene was a key member of the team that won the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 and was part of the team that made it to the final of 2007 Cricket World Cup, 2011 Cricket World Cup, 2009 ICC World Twenty20, and 2012 ICC World Twenty20.
Mahela Jayawardena played 652 international matches, comprising 149 Tests, 448 ODIs, and 55 T20Is. Only India’s Sachin Tendulkar played more international matches, pipping the Sri Lankan by 12 games. A classy right-hander who scored runs relentlessly and captained his nation superbly, Mahela Jayawardena’s 149 Tests are the most by a Sri Lankan, as are his 448 ODIs (12,650 runs at 33.37, 19 centuries) where globally only Sachin Tendulkar (463) played more matches.
He is Test cricket’s ninth greatest run-scorer with 11,814 to his name at an average of 49.84, making the sixth most Test centuries in the longest format’s history. Among his 34 centuries is the famous 374 – Test cricket’s fourth-highest score – he made in the midst of a record-setting 624-run stand with close friend Kumar Sangakkara against South Africa in 2006.