Kumar Sangakkara was born on 27th October 1977 and is considered one of the greatest batsmen of all-time. He played in 134 Tests and scored 12400 runs at a batting average of 57.4 with 38 centuries and 52 fifties. For some reason in his career, he has played second fiddle to players like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Jacques Kallis. The reason for that is that he is not as attractive and flamboyant as them and that his batting is devoid of majesty and grandeur. Even in the Sri Lankan team he was not as destructive as Sanath Jayasuriya or as artistic or elegant as Mahela Jayawardene. This is could be a blessing as it allows him to concentrate on just scoring runs for his team, or it could be unfair as it deprives of recognition for his exploits. If you just judge by the currency of scoring runs, he puts most of the other legends of his generation in the shade.
Sangakkara’s 38 centuries is the 4th most by any player in the history of Tests. There have been 30 players who have scored a minimum of 8000 Test runs and Sangakkara has the 2nd highest batting average in this elite list, after Sir Garfield Sobers. Sangakkara is not one of those fair-weather players who only score runs at home, but are found wanting away from home. He has played 53 Tests away from home and has scored 4888 runs at 53.13 with 14 centuries and 23 fifties. He has also scored 1000 Test runs in a calendar 5 times, which is the epitome of consistency. This is the 2nd most number of times any player has scored 1000 Test runs in a calendar year with only Tendulkar achieving the feat 6 times. Sangakkara was an outstanding wicketkeeper early on his career but gave up the gloves as many judges felt that it would impact his batting. He used to bat at the number 3 position for Sri Lanka in Tests and it would not have been feasible and realistic for him to continue keeping in Tests. Sangakkara donned the gloves in 48 Tests and scored 3117 runs at 40.48 with 7 centuries and 11 fifties. There have been 31 wicketkeepers who have scored a minimum of 2000 Test runs and Sangakkara’s batting average is the 6th highest among this lot.
Sangakkara’s record when playing just as a batsman and not donning the gloves is almost unbelievable. He has played 86 Tests just as a batsman and has scored 9283 runs at 66.78 with 31 centuries and 41 fifties. This batting average is the 2nd highest after Don Bradman among all the 283 batsmen who have scored a minimum of 2000 Test runs as a non-wicketkeeper. There have been a lot of fine batsmen who have played at the number 3 position for their country in Tests. Sangakkara’s 11679 runs at 60.82 at the number 3 position is a world record, even ahead of his fine contemporaries in Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid. There have been 38 batsmen who have scored a minimum of 2000 runs at number 3 and Sangakkara has the 6th highest batting average. In terms of innings taken to achieve the milestones of 8000, 9000, 11000 and 12000 Test runs, Sangakkara is the quickest ever and is the joint fastest to score 10000 Test runs. In spite of owning a plethora of records, Sangakkara was a bit slow to get off the blocks in Tests and at the end of his 37th Test, had scored only 2409 runs at 43.09. However, he struck a purple patch in his next 90 Tests starting from 14th May 2004 till 6th August 2014, scoring 9498 runs at 65.05 with 33 centuries and 37 fifties. Most batsmen struggle to average in excess of 65 over a long period but Sangakkara maintained this level of consistency for a period of more than 10 years.
During this period, he was the highest run scorer in Tests and scored an incredible 1171 runs more than the 2nd highest run scorer in Tests. He also scored the maximum number of centuries, 4 more than Jacques Kallis. In fact, if you consider his entire career of 15 years from July 2000 till August 2015, he was the highest run scorer in Tests and if you impose a 2000 run cutoff during this period, he had the 3rd best batting average after Mohammad Yousuf and Kallis.
Sangakkara has many other records to his name. He has scored 11 double centuries in Tests, which is the 2nd highest after 12 by Don Bradman. He was also the first player to register scores in excess of 150 in an innings in 4 consecutive Tests. Sangakkara also holds the record for the highest ever partnership for any wicket in Tests. In tandem with Mahela Jayawardene, he put on a partnership of 624 for the 3th wicket against South Africa at Colombo in 2006. The duo are the only pair to put on a partnership in excess of 600 in Tests. He is simply one of the greatest batsmen ever to play Tests, irrespective of whichever yardstick or parameter you use to judge him.
While his Test record is mind boggling, Sangakkara is no slouch in ODIs either. He has played in 404 ODIs and scored 14234 runs at 41.98 with 25 centuries and 93 fifties. He has played the 4th most number of ODIs in history. Since the workload in ODIs, is comparatively lesser, with the game lasting just a single day, Sangakkara used to don the gloves in this format so that his team could have better balance. He has scored in excess of 1000 runs in a calendar year in ODIs, 6 times which is once again the 2nd most in ODI history, after Tendulkar who has done it 7 times. Sangakkara has kept wicket in 360 out of the 404 ODIs he played in and scored 13341 runs at 43.74, at a batting strike rate of 80.75. This is the most ever by a wicketkeeper and with Mahendra Singh Dhoni (10500) coming to the end of his career, this record looks set to stand the test of time.
Sangakkara also has the 2nd highest run aggregate in ODIs after Tendulkar and has scored the 8th most number of centuries in ODI history. His 23 centuries as a wicketkeeper is the highest, well ahead of Adam Gilchrist who scored 16. There have been 21 wicketkeepers who have scored a minimum of 2000 runs in ODIs and Sangakkara has the 5th highest batting average amongst those in this elite list. He is also the first and only batsman to score 4 consecutive centuries in ODIs, which he did during the 2015 World Cup. Sangakkara was the 1st Sri Lankan and the 4th ever to score a century in his 100th ODI.
With the gloves, Sangakkara has effected 482 dismissals in ODIs and this is a world record. He has 383 catches and 99 stumpings to his name. In World Cups, Sangakkara has effected 54 dismissals in 37 matches which is the maximum number of dismissals by a wicketkeeper in World Cups.
Since T20Is were not around for a major part of his career, Sangakkara did not get any opportunity to etch his name in history in this format. However, his partnership of 166 for the 2nd wicket with Mahela Jayawardene for Sri Lanka against West Indies at Bridgetown, Barbados in the WT20 in 2010, is a record for any wicket in the World T20. Sangakkara also became the 1st batsman to score fifties in 2 separate finals at the WT20, which he did in 2009 and 2014.
Sangakkara is one of the players from Asia who indulges in sledging and it says a lot about the hypocritical nature of players and commentators from outside Asia, who give him a lot of flak for it. However, his sledging is not ridden with expletives or personal attacks but has a touch of humour meant to throw the batsman off his game. In a Super Six match at the 2003 World Cup between South Africa and Sri Lanka, the skipper of the Proteas, Shaun Pollock arrived at the crease with South Africa in a perilous position. Sanga as he is popularly known, sledged Pollock by reminding that there was a lot of pressure on him as the latter was the skipper, and that the entire expectations of the 42 million population of South Africa was on Pollock’s shoulders. This was nothing crass, but just a cheeky and clever way to unsettle the batsman. In the 2017 Champions Trophy, Sangakkara was sharing the mike with Pollock in a match between Sri Lanka and India and Pollock in lighter vein, reminded Sanga that there was a lot of pressure on the former as Sri Lanka were running out of leaders with Upul Tharanga banned. Angelo Mathews was potentially about to be banned and a few Sri Lanka players were injured. So, Pollock asked Sangakkara if he was prepared to make a comeback and play against Pakistan and that the expectations of Sri Lanka’s entire 21 million population was on the latter. Sanga took the ribbing good naturedly and said that he was enjoying the pleasures of the commentary box and had no inclination to make a comeback. This showed that Sanga was a good sport and was willing to be on the receiving end of some good-natured banter and not just dish it out.
In a tri-series match between Sri Lanka and India in 2010, Suraj Randiv deliberately bowled a no ball to deny Virender Sehwag a century. Sehwag said that he thought that Randiv was acting on the orders of the senior players in the side. Even though Sanga was the captain, he denied giving any instructions to Randiv and that was one of the few controversies that happened on his watch. In spite of his propensity to sledge, Sanga has been involved in very few controversies in his career even though he gives verbal volleys to batsmen who refuse to walk when they are clearly out.
In 2011, Sanga delivered the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lords. He became the youngest person and the first active international cricketer to deliver the lecture which was widely praised by the cricketing community. His 1-hour long speech was based on the history and the corruption of the cricket administration in Sri Lanka. This speech has been described as one of the most important speeches in cricket history. Sanga retired from ODI cricket after the conclusion of the 2015 World Cup. Sanga also won the award for Outstanding Contribution to Sport at the 5th Asian Awards, which were held in London on 17th April 2015. In 2016, in a poll by cricket.com.au to find the One-Day International Greatest of All-Time, (GOAT) Sanga won the fan poll edging out Sachin Tendulkar.
Sangakkara was awarded the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy in 2012, which is an award given to the ICC Cricketer of the Year. He was named the ICC Test player of the year in 2012. He was named the ICC ODI player of the Year in 2011 and 2013. He was named the Wisden Leading Cricketer of the year in 2011 and 2014. He was selected in the ICC Test Team of the year in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He was also selected in the ICC ODI Team of the year in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Sangakkara is involved in a lot of charity work in Sri Lanka. He is a member of the Think Wise Initiative, launched by the International Cricket Council, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and UNICEF. This initiative is aimed at raising awareness of HIV prevention and eliminating discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS. He is also a partner of the foundation of Goodness, which is a charity launched by Kushil Gunasekara.
To conclude, Sangakkara is one of the greatest batsmen ever to play the game and also a fine human being.
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