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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Jayasuriya proves enduring talent
By Paul Grunill
BBC Sport

When a player on the wrong side of 30 gives up the captaincy of a Test team, it is often the case that retirement follows soon after, if not immediately.

Sanath Jayasuriya
The square cut is Jayasuriya's trademark stroke

Such was the case with Australian Steve Waugh and England's Nasser Hussain, who both decided it was time to make room for younger men after stepping down as skipper.

For Sanath Jayasuriya, however, casting off the cares of captaincy was merely a calculated move aimed at prolonging his international career.

"I hope to represent my country for as long as I can," he said in February after making a Sri Lankan record 309th appearance in a one-day international.

He has had no reason for second thoughts since then.

And his reaction to scoring his 13th Test century in the first Test against Pakistan in Faisalabad - before going on to make 253 the following day - was indicative of his continuing desire to play at the highest level.

"Whenever I play for my country, it's always unique and I am very proud. I always want to perfom," he said.

"A hundred is always important in your career and I am happy the way I got it."

He is not in the team just because he is a senior player - he is there because he is a match-winner
Team-mate Marvan Atapattu

He passed 6,000 runs earlier in the game and is rapidly closing in on Aravinda de Silva's national record total of 6,361.

It is almost 15 years since Jayasuriya began his international career by making only three batting at number five in a one-day game against Australia in Melbourne.

But it was as an opener that he established himself as one of the game's great entertainers as he took on opposition attacks with carefree abandon at the 1996 World Cup.

Although his 221 runs at an average of 36.8 was overshadowed by de Silva's 448 at 89, Jayasuriya's astonishing strike rate of 131 was a vital factor as they lifted the trophy.

The following year he had the chance to enter the record books for the highest innings in a Test match.

Brian Lara's 375 was in Jayasuriya's sights as he pounded two sixes and 36 fours with India's attack flagging on a flat Colombo pitch.

He reached 340 only to fall short when he was caught off spinner Rajesh Chauhan, but he had the consolation of seeing his team-mates establish a Test record total of 952-6 declared.

Sanath Jayasuriya
Although a veteran, Jayauriya still enjoys the one-day challenge

Jayasuriya graduated to the captaincy in 1999 and a record of 18 wins in 38 Tests and 37 wins in 60 one-dayers showed him to be a leader worthy of the respect of opposing teams.

But giving up the job was not a straightforward matter.

He tendered his resignation in March 2003, only to have it batted back by then Sports Minister Johnston Fernando.

"I appreciate Sanath's freedom to send in his resignation. The authoriities also have the freedom to reject or accept it," the minister said.

Jayasuriya was finally able to pass the job on Marvan Atapattu after a tournament in Sharjah the following month, giving him the freedom to focus on his own performance.

He has not always found runs easy to come by since then, but can always be relied on to make some sort of contribution - taking 5-17 with his left-arm spin to hasten Pakistan to defeat in the recent Paktel Cup final.

At 35, Jayasuriya knows his international career may be entering its final phase.

But until then, he is determined to enjoy every single moment.


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