A prolific, elegant and utterly classy batsman with a huge appetite for runs, and a calm yet authoritative captain - those are the qualities that best describe Mahela Jayawardene. His sheer quality as a batsman was never in doubt even when he just entered the international scene, but for Jayawardene the biggest challenge has been to justify all the early hype. With over 10,000 runs in both Tests and ODIs - and a captaincy stint that included a World Cup final appearance - it can safely be said that he has met that challenge more than adequately.
Blessed with excellent hand-eye coordination and a fine technique, Jayawardene scores his runs all around the wicket. Among his favourite strokes are the languid cover-drive - often with minimal footwork but precise placement and timing - and the wristy flick off his legs, but there are several others he plays with equal felicity. The most memorable are the cuts and dabs he plays behind the stumps, mostly off spinners, but also against quick bowling, when bat makes contact with ball delightfully late. Apart from his artistry, what stands out about his batting is his hunger for big scores, most apparent in his record 624-run partnership with Kumar Sangakkara, but also in the regularity with which he notches up Test double-hundreds. And his century against Zimbabwe in the World Twenty20 in 2010 was a shining example of traditional methods succeeding in a new format.
Jayawardene is easily one of the most elegant batsmen of his generation, but the major drawback in his career is his relative lack of success in overseas conditions. His averages in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand are all less than 35, but at home he averages more than 60.
In the second half of his career, Jayawardene grew into an astute captain who read the game well and wasn't afraid to take risks. Under him, Sri Lanka shed their diffident approach, winning Tests in England and New Zealand, and - in what was Jayawardene's greatest achievement as captain - reached the final of the 2007 World Cup. He quit captaincy in February 2009, but agreed to a second stint, taking over from Tillakaratne Dilshan after the tour to South Africa in 2011-12, but resigned again after a year, handing the reins to Angelo Mathews.
His limited overs batting has improved with age, and an increasing stroke repertoire has seen Jayawardene become almost as impressive an innovator at the crease, as he is a technician. An unbeaten 103 from 88 balls in the 2011 World Cup final made plain his limited overs prowess, and marked him out as a big-match player, having already made a century in the semi-final of the same tournament four years ago.