Mahela Jayawardene is regarded as one of the best players of his generation. In spite of his numerous achievements, he remains the most down-to-earth characters of the game and is an idol for Sri Lankan fans.
Jayawardene captained his school's Under-13 side, playing at the pivotal number three position. With his wonderful, flowing technique and his penchant for big runs, he quickly became one of the most promising players at the school level. He made his debut for Sinhalese Sports Club in 1995 and after slamming four centuries in the 1997-98 season, was fast-tracked into Sri Lanka's Test squad. He made an impressive debut against India, carving a neat 66-run knock in a game in which Sri Lanka piled a record-breaking 952-6. He made his ODI debut in 1998 and scored a fine 74 in only his second game. However, his breakthrough innings was a fluent 167 against New Zealand on a Galle pitch so treacherous that Stephen Fleming labelled it as a 'dung heap'.
Thereafter, Mahela became a regular for Sri Lanka in Tests and ODIs and was a consistent performer over the years. An artistic 107 against England at Lord's and a double hundred against a decent South African attack at Galle were just some of the highlights of his career during that period. In 2006, he was made captain for Sri Lanka's Bangladesh tour after regular skipper Marvan Atapattu was ruled out with a back injury. He then led a young Sri Lankan side to complete a 5-0 whitewash of England in an ODI series and draw level in the Test series. The fact that it was achieved in England, a country where few Asian countries had succeeded was a testimony to Jayawardene's leadership qualities. Mahela showed his true mettle with the bat and also became the first Sri Lankan captain to score a triple century in Tests. He did so against South Africa in 2006, putting up a record-breaking 624-run stand with Kumar Sangakkara.
After a brief stint with captaincy that included a place in the 2007 World Cup final, he stepped down in 2009 with a view to concentrate on his batting. Mahela scored an outstanding century against India in the final of the ICC 50-over World Cup 2011, although his knock went in vain and Sri Lanka lost consecutive finals of the showpiece event. The responsibility of captaincy returned to him in 2011-12 after he took over from Tillakaratne Dilshan. The skipper tried his best to help Sri Lanka win their maiden World Twenty20 title in 2012 but had to settle with the runners-up position. Following the debacle, Jayawardene relinquished his T20I captaincy, while continuing to captain in Tests and ODIs. He finally stepped down as a leader from all formats of the game in 2013, post the Australia series.
A sweet timer of the ball, Jayawardene was blessed with immaculate technique and loads of patience. Equally adept of both the front and back foot, he's a fine cutter of the ball and a very good close-in fielder. A team man to the core, he is credited for developing many of Sri Lanka's youngsters into better cricketers. His versatility to adapt to all forms of the game led him to be bought by the Delhi-based franchise in the fifth edition of the Indian T20 League, after having represented Punjab and the now-defunct Kochi in the previous editions.
The maestro called it curtains to his limited-overs career after failing to take Sri Lanka past the quarter-final mark in the 2015 ICC World Cup. He had retired from Tests in 2014. However, his contribution to the sport of cricket did not stop there. In August 2015, the England Cricket Board signed Jayawardene as batting consultant for the national team. He was a part of the England coaching team up to the World Twenty20 in India. In 2017, Jayawardene was appointed as the coach of the Mumbai-based franchise for the 10th edition of the Indian T20 League. Under his tutelage, the team lifted their third Indian T20 League title in 2017 and fourth in 2019.