The Islanders head into their quarter-final against South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday with Sangakkara in sensational form after becoming the first batsman to score hundreds in four successive ODI matches.
Since being dismissed for seven by Afghanistan in a World Cup group match in Dunedin last month, the 37-year-old left-hander has made scores of 105 not out against Bangladesh, 117 not out against England, 104 against Australia and 124 against Scotland.
“Unbelievable,” said Jayasuriya, now Sri Lanka’s chairman of selectors, when asked about his former team-mate during a training session at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday.
“It’s one of the rarest things you can see, him playing four (hundreds) in a row. I’m lucky to be here to watch all four innings.
“I’m very happy and what I want, as chairman of selectors, is for him to continue his form right throughout the World Cup. I know he’s a great player for Sri Lanka and he also wants to continue his form.”
Jayasuriya, a key member of the Sri Lanka side that won the 1996 World Cup, said age was not yet a barrier to Sangakkara continuing in white-ball cricket.
“He’s (still) playing Test cricket but definitely I would love him to continue for a few years. It’s all in his hands.”
Jayasuriya, asked if there was a secret to wicket-keeper/batsman’s Sangakkara’s success, added: “Since he came into the side in 2000 he has been working really hard, his keeping, his batting and he wants to improve his game every day.
“That’s what he’s doing even when he’s playing his last one-day series. He’s mentally a very strong guy and he wants to do well all the time.”
South Africa coach Russell Domingo admitted his side had a challenge to contain Sangakkara.
“He’s in the form of his life, he’s got four hundreds and you’ve got to think that there’s a lower score just around the corner,” Domingo said at the SCG on Monday.
“We’ve got some plans and some things we think we need to execute against him and we’ve discussed that quite a bit.”
Left-hander Jayasuriya certainly gave opposition coaches plenty of headaches, having revolutionised the art of opening a one-day innings with his blistering approach at the top of the order during the 1996 World Cup.
But with that aggressive style now commonplace the 45-year-old said the game had changed greatly since his heyday.
“I think it’s different now. Things have changed — the way of thinking, the rules, the advantage (balance) between bowlers and batsmen has changed in the last 15 years. 1996 was completely different — then it was four in the ring, now it’s five in the ring. We have powerplays at different times.
“It’s good for both sides, bowlers and batters, but always challenging. It’s a good way of playing cricket.”
However, Jayasuriya did see similarities between Sri Lanka’s 1996 side and the current team.
“The similarities are that we had Arjuna (Ranatunga) and Aravinda (de Silva)in the middle order and this team has Kumar and Mahela (Jayawardene) and Angelo Mathews. We had Asanka Gurusinha too.
“We got the license to play our natural game at the top (of the order) and we had a very good batting line-up in the middle.
“It’s similar now, we’ve got two good openers and three solid batsmen in the middle.”