A player and a gentleman

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A class apart Sangakkara has bid farewell to his 15-year-long cricketing career. Photo: AFP
A class apart Sangakkara has bid farewell to his 15-year-long cricketing career. Photo: AFP

As Team India led by Virat Kohli romped home to a convincing 278 runs to win the second Test in Colombo against Sri Lanka to level the series 1-1, for one legend the Test outcome was a rather bitter one to digest. That legend was the stylish and prolific 37-year-old left-hander Kumar Sangakkara. Sangakkara had announced his decision to retire from international cricket after the second Test against India. Thus bringing an end to a spectacular 15-year cricketing career.

Sangakkara firmly etched his name as one of the greats of the modern game during his amazing career. He had under his belt a plethora of batting records which stamped his class as a batsman of sheer class and quality. He was the fastest batsman to reach 8,000, 9,000, 11,000 and 12,000 runs in Test cricket. He is also the joint-fastest to 10,000-run club . There was nothing much flashy about his batting; it was all class, timing, and elegance. The beauty of Sangakkara’s batting also lay in the fact that he was a left-hander. And left- handers have always had that sublime elegance. Remember the curly haired Englishman David Gower, India’s very own Sourav Ganguly and the brutal and devastating like Aussie duo Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist to name a few.

That Sangakkara strode the field like a giant was proved by his stupendous record. A stunning 12,400 runs from 134 Tests at an average of 57.40 an innings and 14,234 runs in 404 one-dayers, averaging almost 42, with 11 double centuries in Tests; just one double ton short of the record 12 held by late Australian legend Don Bradman. He was fifth in the alltime list of highest run-scorers behind India’s legend Sachin Tendulkar, Aussie great Ricky Ponting, South African allround great Jacques Kallis and the ‘The Wall’ of Indian cricket Rahul Dravid. So, he was in the august and elite company.

Along with team-mate and close friend Mahela Jayawardene, the duo formed a terrific partnership and fashioned many a famous Sri Lankan wins . It was a delight to watch them bat in tandem. They both took time to settle down. Once settled, their sublime strokeplay minimised the bowling and made a famed bowling attack look rather ordinary. The pair, without a fuss, would keep the scoreboard ticking by taking singles, putting the ball into the gaps and not forgetting to put a rank bad ball to the fence or over the boundary. All these were done with sheer finesse. And the Sanga-Mahela combine was lethal for Sri Lanka. The runs scored by both together speak for themselves. The pair have scored an astonishing 5890 runs for the 3rd wicket, the most for the 3rd upstaging the previous record of 5826 runs held by the ‘The wall’ of Indian cricket Rahul Dravid and little master Sachin Tendulkar.

Ashish Shukla, a senior cricket writer, tells Tehelka: “The record Sangakkara has, was he to be born in Australia or England, people would have forgotten about Hammond or Bradman. A batsman par excellence, who for the most part of his career stood behind stumps and, an individual with most notable academic credentials, Sangakkara is a rarity on all counts. Yet, he is unsung for obvious reasons. Sri Lanka has produced world beaters — but men like Murali are more written about their ‘bent arm’ than the numbers they have in the wicket column. Mahela, Jayasuriya, Sanga, Ranatunga, Dilshan, Vaas, Malinga — all have suffered from this perception.”

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