COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene is stepping down as captain after their tour of Pakistan, the 31-year-old announced Wednesday.
Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's most successful test captain, met with national selectors earlier in the day and informed them of his decision to stand down after three years at the helm.
Sri Lanka are preparing for a two-test series in Pakistan, the first test beginning on February 21. They play a two-day warmup game against a Patron's XI in Karachi from Tuesday.
"In the best interests of the Sri Lanka team, I have decided to stand down as Sri Lanka captain after this Pakistan tour," Jayawardene said in a statement.
"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.
"After much thought, I have concluded that the right time has now come for fresh leadership to takeover."
Jayawardene's departure follows Sri Lanka's 4-1 defeat by India in a recent ODI series.
During the past three months Jayawardene has struggled with the bat in one-day cricket, although he did score a half-century in the recent series to end a 14-match run without a fifty.
However, his batting record as captain has been excellent with a test average of 64.70, including 11 centuries in 26 test matches. In one-day cricket his average in 97 games was 34.22 with four hundreds.
Jayawardene's win ratio as test captain was 63 percent, the highest in Sri Lanka's 27-year test history, and for ODIs it was 57 percent.
In 2006 the ICC named Jayawardene Test Captain of the Year and in both 2007 and 2008 Sri Lanka won the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award under his leadership.
Kumar Sangakkara, Jayawardene's deputy during the past few years, is tipped to takeover the captaincy from a one-day series against Zimbabwe in March.
Jayawardene pledged his full support to his successor and confirmed his desire to play on in all forms of the game.
"It was not an easy decision to make because being Sri Lanka national captain has been the source of enormous pride and I am very grateful to have been granted the honour of leading the team during the last three years," he added.
"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."
Editing by Peter Rutherford