COLOMBO, February 11 – Mahela Jayawardene on Wednesday decided to step down as Sri Lanka's cricket captain after the upcoming Tests in Pakistan, saying he was doing it "in the best interests" of the team."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," Jayawardene, 31, said in a statement.
Jayawardene’s decision to quit came after India completed a 4-1 rout of Sri Lanka in a recent one-day series, although he did not mention this as a factor.
The middle-order batsman, who led Sri Lanka for the first time in April 2004, did not play in Tuesday’s Twenty20 international here, which India won by three wickets.
"After much thought, I have concluded that the right time has now come for fresh leadership to takeover," said Jayawardene, who was named the International Cricket Council’s captain of the year in 2006.
"It was not an easy decision to make because being the Sri Lanka captain has been the source of enormous pride. I am very grateful to have been granted the honour of leading the team."
Jayawardene however made it clear he was not quitting the team altogether.
"I look forward now to extending my full support to my successor and hope to play a major part in the team’s success during coming years as a batsman," he added.
Sri Lanka Cricket chief executive Duleep Mendis said Jayawardene’s resignation had been accepted, but no decision had been taken on the new captain.
Kumar Sangakkara, the current vice-captain and Jayawardene’s close friend, was likely to take over as skipper, local media speculated.
Jayawardene, in an interview with Cricinfo last year, said Sangakkara would make a good captain.
"Kumar is definitely a suitable person to lead Sri Lanka," he said in the interview.
"His knowledge of the game and his approach is brilliant. He has been a brilliant deputy too. We talk a lot about planning and strategising, so there is not much difference in our thinking, which is very important.
"If I suddenly lose the hunger to lead then ideally Kumar should take over."
Jayawardene guided Sri Lanka to the World Cup final in the West Indies in 2007, where they lost to Australia.
He captained Sri Lanka in 26 Tests, winning 15, losing seven with four draws.
In 94 one-day internationals under him, Sri Lanka won 54 and lost 35 while the rest ended in no-results.
The first Test in Pakistan will be played in Karachi from February 21-25, while the second and final match will be played in Lahore from March 1-5.