Mumbai: Mahela Jayawardene closed the curtain on an illustrious test career on Monday, leaving a huge gap in the Sri Lanka batting order as well as the dressing room, which the island country will find difficult to bridge.
The 37-year-old right-hander, one of cricket`s most elegant batsmen, signed off from the longest format after 11,814 runs in 149 tests with an average of 49.84 during a 17-year test career.
Since his debut as a 20-year-old against India in 1997, Jayawardene has gone on to become one of Sri Lanka`s most prolific run-getters and has been a source of pleasure for cricket`s purists with his deft touch and lazy elegance.
He has scored more than 11,000 runs in both tests and one-day internationals - one of only five cricketers worldwide to have achieved that feat to date.
Despite being one of the most liked and admired cricketers of his generation, the man was an intense competitor. He played hard but within the rules and his aggression never spilled over.
Jayawardene`s calm and composure on the field has also made him the record holder for the highest number of catches in tests with 205 scalps, mostly taken in the slips.
Former team mate Muttiah Muralitharan has often thanked him in the past for many of his 800 test wickets and `caught Jayawardene b Muralitharan` became one of the game`s most frequent dismissals.
Jayawardene also led Sri Lanka to 18 wins in the 38 tests he captained and took them to the World Cup final in 2007 in West Indies, where they lost to Australia. But his contribution to the team was not just restricted to the field.
"All the innings he has played for Sri Lanka has been special ones but it`s more of Mahela the person that the dressing room will miss," his good friend and fellow batsman Kumar Sangakkara recently said.
"The intensity he brought to the dressing room, his leadership, his ability to communicate, his skill on the field and just his personality off it.
"The guys hold him in high esteem and they will miss him quite a bit."
No one probably knows Jayawardene better in cricket than Sangakkara, who combined with him in a record 624-run stand against South Africa, during which the right-hander scored 374 and was within sight of Brian Lara`s highest score of 400 in tests.
Jayawardene also had an immense role in grooming Angelo Mathews in becoming Sri Lanka`s captain and never let his ego get in the way of serving the team.
Pace bowler Lasith Malinga heaped praise on Jayawardene for helping him lead the side on the field when regular skipper Dinesh Chandimal opted to sit out due to poor form during the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh this year.
Jayawardene was seen making bowling and fielding changes as Sri Lanka went on to win the tournament.
"The younger guys, including me, have learned so much from him," Mathews said last week.
"Up to now, he has supported me right throughout from day one, and I`m really thankful to him for that."
It was, therefore, not a surprise that he decided to call it a day despite most thinking that he could have carried on.
Jayawardene, true to his spirit, knew there was no point in continuing and rather wanted Sri Lanka to invest in younger players.
"I am not getting any younger," he said.
"If I can`t improve from where I am right now then there`s no point just dragging (on).
"It is better to invest in another youngster and build the team."