Colombo: With 436 matches and more than 13,000 runs under his belt, Sanath Jayasuriya is undoubtedly one of greatest players in the ODI pantheon. But like all good things come to an end, Sri Lanka's most explosive opening batsman is now in the last leg of his brilliant career.
He has gone through lean patches before. Like in July 2004, after two consecutive hundreds against Bangladesh and India, Jayasuriya's form went into a slump for 26 innings before he again broke free with a 114 against Australia at Sydney in June 2006.
Then there was phase between March 2007 and June 2008 when he went without a big knock for 29 innings at a stretch. Before the slump started, he got a three-figure knock against the West Indies in their den.
The next one came in the 30th innings against Bangaldesh in Karachi. Jayasuriya topped that with another one against India at the same venue six days later.
That Jayasuriya has scored one hundred and two 50s in his last 20 innings may not sound very alarming but there is a marked difference in his approach now. Earlier, when Jayasuriya was on song, one could hardly differentiate a good ball from a bad one.
He has this uncanny knack of playing a short-arm pull on a good length ball on or outside the off stump, and deposit it over the square leg fence.
But now Jayasuriya waits for a loose ball to pounce on it. Even in the first match against New Zealand on Tuesday, he waited and waited before he got out caught at thirdman, trying to create space to cut a rising ball.
Rivals no longer think about plotting Jayasuriya's downfall because he doesn't look to be the same fearsome batsman he once was. However, the Lankans are not willing to pull the curtain on his career yet.
"It is nothing like that," says his former opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana with whom he terrorized the world, exploiting the field restrictions in the first 15 overs.
"Santh is still the same batsman. He is going through a lean patch alright but he will come out of it soon. I have seen him do that in the past and I am sure he will do it now too," he added.
His current opening partner Tillakratne Dilshan thinks that he is just one knock away from regaining his old touch. "One good innings and people will again see the same Sanath of yesteryears," said Dilshan. "Moreover, he is very fit and he has no injury worries. Lean phases do come in a cricketer's career, it is nothing permanent," Dilshan said.
"And if Sanath is fit and wants to continue, Sri Lankan cricket will never stop him from competing," added Kaluwitharana.