COLOMBO // Mahela Jayawardene will stand down as the Sri Lanka captain at the end of the Pakistan tour in March. Sri Lanka play two Tests against Pakistan with the first beginning in Karachi on Feb 21. The second will be held in Lahore from March 1. Jayawardene, who has led Sri Lanka since Feb 2006, announced his decision after a meeting with the national selectors.
He presided over a 4-1 loss to India in the one-day series which ended last week and told selectors the time was right to hand over the captaincy so his successor would have time to prepare the team for the 2011 World Cup. "In the best interests of the Sri Lanka team, I have decided to stand down as Sri Lanka captain after this Pakistan tour," Jayawardene said. "This is something I have been considering for some time as it has been my long-held belief that my successor should have at least 18 months in the job to imprint his vision on the team for the 2011 World Cup.
"After much thought, I have concluded that the right time has now come for fresh leadership to take over," he added. Kumar Sangakkara - Jayawardene's deputy during the past few years - is tipped to take over the captaincy from a one-day series against Zimbabwe in March. "It was not an easy decision to make because being Sri Lanka captain has been the source of enormous pride," Jayawardene said. "I am grateful to have been granted the honour of leading the team during the last three years.
"I would like to extend a special thank you to my teammates for making the job so easy and fulfilling, to the [board] officials and selectors that placed their faith in me, and to family, friends and fans who have provided so much support. "I look forward to extending my full support to my successor and hope to play a major part in the team's success during the coming years as a batsman," he said. Jayawardene, 31, sat out of a Twenty20 international against India in Colombo on Tuesday - a match the tourists won by three wickets.
He led Sri Lanka in 26 Test matches and 97 one-dayers and was Sri Lanka's most successful captain with a win percentage of 62.50 per cent in Tests and 57 per cent in one-day internationals. During the past three months Jayawardene has struggled with the bat in one-day cricket, even though he did score a half-century in the recent series to end a 14-match run without a fifty. But his batting record as captain has been excellent with a Test average of 64.70 and ODI average of 34.22.