The vexing case of Mahela

Posted: January 10, 2010 in Uncategorized
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In the past few years, Mahela has really been a very curious case to follow.

He’s so prolific in Tests and always seems to get a hundred, whereas, when it comes to ODIs, there are just brief periods of excellence and plenty of times when he barely scores runs. Sri Lankan cricket fans will remember the last time he had such a bad drought, which was between 2003 and 2004. Most notable was the World Cup 2003, where he didn’t manage a single double-figure score, despite having played in all but one match.

I’ve recently discovered the wonders of Cricinfo’s Statsguru 2.0 and it’s allowed me to come up with this analysis.

This is a look at how consistent he has been across ODIs and Tests when compared to the 3 other batsmen who have been pretty much the mainstay for the last decade.

I have considered the achievement of an average of 35 and above as a good year. The minimum criteria for a particular year to be considered is 10 ODIs. The stats aren’t too surprising for ODIs. For Jayasuriya, it’s only fair to consider the stats from 1996 as it was in that year that he was pushed up the order.

Mahela Jayawardena – 4 out of 11 years (36%)

Marvan Atapattu – 9 out of 10 years (90%)

Kumar Sangakkara – 6 out of 10 years (60%)

Sanath Jayasuriya – 6 out of 14 years (43%) (had 34.something averages in 2 years)

As you can clearly see, Mahela has been the least consistent of the 4 batsmen. Jayasuriya’s lack of consistency is largely due to the fact that he’s an impact batsman, in that no-one really expects him to play a big innings every match, rather something like once every 3 matches or so.

Looking at the Test numbers, however, Mahela leads the pack. In this, I’ve considered an average of 40+ as a good year. The batsman should have played at least 2 matches in a year. The reason for the low qualification isbecause Sri Lanka generally doesn’t play a lot of test matches. Sanath’s stats from 1996 are only counted.

Mahela Jayawardena – 13 out of 14 years (93%)

Marvan Atapattu – 6 out of 10 years (60%)

Kumar Sangakkara – 7 out of 10 years (70%)

Sanath Jayasuriya –  6 out of 12 years (50%)

As you can see, Mahela is the runaway leader in this table, which clearly shows which format he favors.

What makes Mahela a very difficult case is because, in 4 innings in which he has opened, he has made 2 centuries at an average of 62.50, which is 30 runs higher than his career average. Moreover, these 2 centuries are the only centuries which he has made since 2008, making it a hard choice for the management, especially with 2 in-form openers.

There have been cries of ageism in Sri Lankan blogs, notably in Island Cricket. It is true because, if Jayasuriya had to be dropped, why not Mahela. Jayasuriya at least made a fairly good contribution with the ball regularly unlike Mahela, who rarely every bowls.

The selectors had taken a bold move by dropping Mahela from the original tour squad. I say dropped and not rested because, if a player has a groin injury and is made to sit out, I doubt that he would be in a position to be flown in at short notice to cover injuries to other players.

It does seem that when a number of players got injured (Pushpakumara, Dilshan and Silva), Sangakkara took the chance to fly in his best friend. I can’t imagine the selectors objecting to it as it would’ve been fairly difficult to throw in some more new players at such short notice.

The people here would greatly appreciate it if Mahela could just retire from ODIs gracefully and allow young talent like Dinesh Chandimal take his place.

I really do wonder why players in the Indian Subcontinent tend to stay till they are despised. Why can’t they just be graceful and retire on a high, like McGrath, Warne or Gilchrist?




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