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Why Kumar Sangakkara is one of the greatest Test batsmen of all time

FEATURED WRITER
14.66K   //    17 Sep 2014, 10:50 IST
Kumar Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara

Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara is arguably the best Test batsman Sri Lanka has ever produced. With his exquisite stroke making, impeccable keeping skills, dastardly tactics and acerbic articulation, Sanga has served both Sri Lanka and cricket alike. Owner of many cricket records himself, the former skipper of Sri Lanka has been a great ambassador for the sport of cricket. Well known for his eloquence, Sangakkara is the only active cricketer and the youngest to have made an MCC Lecture.

The elegant left-handed batsman from Sri Lanka is seen sitting on a lot of record tables. Yet he is rarely spoken in the same breath as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara or Ricky Ponting. The most famous reasons given for his exclusion from the elite panel of batsmen is that most of his runs have come against minnows and that he has scored most part of his runs on the flat roads of the sub-continent. Dissecting his records and performing an in depth analysis on his test record prove otherwise.

Sangakkara’s record as wicket-keeper batsman and as a specialist batsman

Sanga’s record needs to be split into two since he has played Tests both as a keeper batsman and as a specialist batsman. Since, squatting and crouching for days can suck incredible amount of energy from a keeper, coming out to bat, a keeper will never be able to give his best. He batted at number 3 generally, which made Sanga’s job even tougher.

Most often Sanga was out to the crease facing the new ball as early as the first over, after days of hard job behind the stumps. It is no-brainer that keeping to the wiles of Muttiah Muralitharan is a cumbersome task. To have done that job immaculately and to have batted at number 3, is indeed a superhuman effort.

Sangakkara’s already wondrous Test record become unconquerable without keeping gloves

Sanga’s overall Test career record


Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

overall

2000-2014

128

221

17

11988

319

58.76

22124

54.18

37

51

10

1454

47

Sanga’s record as a designated keeper


Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

filtered

2000-2008

48

81

4

3117

230

40.48

5988

52.05

7

11

4

419

9

Sanga’s record as a specialist batsman

 

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

filtered

2000-2014

80

140

13

8871

319

69.85

16136

54.97

30

40

6

1035

38

His records are far better when he plays as a specialist batsman which he has been doing regularly since 2008. Even though he averages only in the 40s as a designated wicket-keeper, only 4 players average better than him, having played a minimum of 20 Test matches as a keeper batsman.

List of wicket-keeper batsmen in the descending order of Test average with a minimum of 20 Tests

Player

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

100

50

0

AB de Villiers (SA)

2004-2014

21

35

3

1823

169

56.96

6

7

0

A Flower (Zim)

1992-2002

55

100

18

4404

232*

53.70

12

23

4

AC Gilchrist (Aus)

1999-2008

96

137

20

5570

204*

47.60

17

26

14

LEG Ames (Eng)

1929-1939

44

67

12

2387

149

43.40

8

7

5

KC Sangakkara (SL)

2000-2008

48

81

4

3117

230

40.48

7

11

4

Sanga’s Test record in different parts of the world

The major complaint about him is that he has not scored consistently away from home and that most of his runs have come in the subcontinent. 

Overall test record in different countries

Country

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

Australia

2004-2012

5

10

1

543

192

60.33

1050

51.71

1

5

1

69

1

Bangladesh

2006-2014

6

10

0

783

319

78.30

1331

58.82

2

4

1

86

11

England

2002-2014

11

22

1

862

147

41.04

1912

45.08

2

5

0

105

0

India

2005-2009

6

10

0

365

137

36.50

826

44.18

1

0

0

47

1

New Zealand

2005-2006

4

7

2

334

156*

66.80

509

65.61

2

0

0

45

2

Pakistan

2002-2009

5

9

1

695

230

86.87

1099

63.23

3

3

0

91

4

South Africa

2000-2012

8

16

0

572

108

35.75

1175

48.68

1

3

1

78

1

Sri Lanka

2000-2014

71

116

11

6633

287

63.17

11902

55.73

22

24

7

809

21

U.A.E.

2011-2014

6

12

1

682

211

62.00

1413

48.26

2

4

0

62

4

West Indies

2003-2008

4

7

0

238

75

34.00

516

46.12

0

3

0

24

0

Zimbabwe

2004-2004

2

2

0

281

270

140.50

391

71.86

1

0

0

38

2

As a specialist batsman

Grouping

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

Australia

2004-2012

4

8

1

541

192

77.28

1029

52.57

1

5

0

69

1

Bangladesh

2008-2014

4

7

0

668

319

95.42

1153

57.93

2

3

0

72

10

England

2011-2014

5

10

0

526

147

52.60

1099

47.86

2

3

0

64

0

India

2009-2009

3

5

0

241

137

48.20

531

45.38

1

0

0

31

1

New Zealand

2006-2006

2

4

2

268

156*

134.00

367

73.02

2

0

0

34

2

Pakistan

2004-2009

3

5

0

300

104

60.00

469

63.96

1

3

0

37

0

South Africa

2000-2012

5

10

0

372

108

37.20

842

44.18

1

2

1

46

1

Sri Lanka

2002-2014

43

72

9

4778

287

75.84

8368

57.09

17

17

5

561

17

U.A.E.

2011-2014

6

12

1

682

211

62.00

1413

48.26

2

4

0

62

4

West Indies

2003-2008

3

5

0

214

75

42.80

474

45.14

0

3

0

21

0

Zimbabwe

2004-2004

2

2

0

281

270

140.50

391

71.86

1

0

0

38

2

Sangakkara’s overall Test record is mediocre only in India, South Africa, West Indies and England. West Indies is the only place he has not scored a century in. Since Sangakkara has played only 4 Tests in the Caribbean, that doesn't gauge his performance there. Sangakkara has a whopping average in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan. 

But as a specialist batsman, Sangakkara’s Test average falls below 50 only in India and West Indies. His averages are supreme in all other countries, vouching for his ability to play swing and seam without difficulties. 

Sangakkara’s away Test average

A batsman's ability with the bat is calibrated through his performances away from home.

Sanga’s overall record away from home


Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

 

2000-2014

57

105

6

5355

319

54.09

10222

52.38

15

27

3

645

26

Sanga's average falls to 54.09 in away matches, which is 4.67 less than his overall average. Yet an average of 54 is still better than most of the other prominent batsmen. 

Sanga's away test record as a specialist batsman


Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

 

2000-2014

37

68

4

4093

319

63.95

7768

52.69

13

23

1

474

21

As a specialist batsman, Sangakkara's Test record reaches the startling 60s away from home.

It is widely argued that his away record excluding Asia is below par.

Away Test record excluding Asia


Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

 

2000-2014

34

64

4

2830

270

47.16

5553

5.96

7

16

2

359

6

Sanga’s Test average falls to 47.16 outside Asia. Out of the 34 matches Sanga has played outside Asia, he played as a wicket-keeper batsman in 13 of those matches. When these Test matches are excluded, Sangakkara's average yet again reaches a gargantuan 61.16. The only blemish that can be cited in his away record excluding Asia is that he has scored heavily against Zimbabwe.

Away Test record excluding Asia as a specialist batsman


Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

 

2000-2014

21

39

3

2202

270

61.16

4202

52.40

7

13

1

272

6

Away Test record excluding Asia and Zimbabwe

When Zimbabwe is omitted Sanga’s average falls to 43.94

 

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

 

2000-2014

32

62

4

2549

192

43.94

5162

49.38

6

16

2

321

4

However as a specialist batsman Sanga averages 56.50 with the bat. Even though there is a difference of 4.66, his record in challenging conditions as a specialist batsman still stands out.

Away test record excluding Asia and Zimbabwe as a Specialist batsman


Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

 

2000-2014

19

37

3

1921

192

56.50

3811

50.40

6

13

1

234

4

Sanga’s test record against top Test teams

Most who gloat against Sanga's Test record, maliciously claim that most of his runs have come against minnows. It has been a common trait in great batsmen to score heavily against below par teams. Sanga too has scored plethora of runs against both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. But his record sans his brilliance against these two teams is still of supreme quality.

Sachin averages 51.01 against all oppositions other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as opposed to his career Test average of 53.78. So branding Sanga as a minnow basher, just because his average falls down slightly against quality Test teams is preposterous.

Test record excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh (both at home and away)


Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s

 

2000-2014

108

194

15

9636

287

53.83

18337

52.54

28

43

9

1177

27

Once again his record as a specialist batsman reaches a humongous average in the 60s.

Test record excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh (both at home and away) as a specialist batsman


Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

BF

SR

100

50

0

4s

6s


2000-2014

68

123

11

6978

287

62.30

13099

53.27

22

35

6

819

21

Batting average in matches won

Sangakkara has been a genuine match-winner for Sri Lanka in the Test arena. Sangakkara averages 74.58 in the matches Sri Lanka have won, which is the 4th best by any batsmen. Only Don Bradman, Inzamam-ul-Haq, and Garry Sobers have better averages.

Average in matches won (min 20 Test matches) 

Player

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

100

50

0

DG Bradman (Aus)

1929-1948

30

43

6

4813

299*

130.08

23

4

3

Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak)

1992-2007

49

76

16

4690

329

78.16

17

20

4

GS Sobers (WI)

1956-1974

31

46

6

3097

365*

77.42

12

11

1

KC Sangakkara (SL)

2000-2014

52

80

8

5370

287

74.58

19

20

4

GS Chappell (Aus)

1972-1984

38

62

11

3595

204

70.49

14

16

3

WR Hammond (Eng)

1927-1946

29

44

7

2584

251

69.83

10

6

3

JC Adams (WI)

1992-2000

21

30

8

1534

174*

69.72

4

8

1

HP Tillakaratne (SL)

1992-2003

24

32

10

1534

204*

69.72

5

6

3

SR Waugh (Aus)

1987-2003

86

120

27

6460

200

69.46

25

25

6

Younis Khan (Pak)

2000-2014

33

57

11

3138

267

68.21

10

12

3

JB Hobbs (Eng)

1908-1930

28

45

5

2720

211

68.00

7

14

1

Saeed Anwar (Pak)

1994-2001

23

36

2

2254

188*

66.29

8

12

1

R Dravid (India)

1996-2011

56

92

14

5131

270

65.78

15

23

2

Average in matches won (min 20 Test matches) excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh

Sanga averages 72.33 in all the matches Sri Lanka have won barring those against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and still he sits 4th in the list.

Player

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

100

50

0

DG Bradman (Aus)

1929-1948

30

43

6

4813

299*

130.08

23

4

3

Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak)

1992-2007

36

56

12

3740

329

85.00

13

18

3

GS Sobers (WI)

1956-1974

31

46

6

3097

365*

77.42

12

11

1

KC Sangakkara (SL)

2000-2014

34

57

6

3689

287

72.33

14

12

3

GS Chappell (Aus)

1972-1984

38

62

11

3595

204

70.49

14

16

3

WR Hammond (Eng)

1927-1946

29

44

7

2584

251

69.83

10

6

3

JB Hobbs (Eng)

1908-1930

28

45

5

2720

211

68.00

7

14

1

AB de Villiers (SA)

2005-2014

41

60

8

3501

217*

67.32

13

15

0

L Hutton (Eng)

1937-1955

27

48

7

2678

364

65.31

8

8

0

SR Waugh (Aus)

1987-2003

81

115

24

5914

200

64.98

22

23

6

KF Barrington (Eng)

1955-1968

31

42

6

2319

163

64.41

8

10

2

Younis Khan (Pak)

2000-2014

24

43

7

2315

267

64.30

7

10

1

Centuries in matches won

Sangakkara has 19 match-winning Test centuries which is surpassed only by Sachin, Kallis, Hayden, Bradman, Ponting and Steve Waugh. But out of all batsmen who have fared better than Sanga, only Bradman has played fewer tests than the Sri Lankan.

Player

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

100

50

0

RT Ponting (Aus)

1995-2012

108

178

24

9157

257

59.46

30

42

8

SR Waugh (Aus)

1987-2003

86

120

27

6460

200

69.46

25

25

6

DG Bradman (Aus)

1929-1948

30

43

6

4813

299*

130.08

23

4

3

ML Hayden (Aus)

1997-2009

71

123

12

6154

380

55.44

23

19

5

JH Kallis (SA)

1996-2013

82

124

22

6379

224

62.53

22

28

4

SR Tendulkar (India)

1990-2013

72

113

17

5946

248*

61.93

20

24

2

KC Sangakkara (SL)

2000-2014

52

80

8

5370

287

74.58

19

20

4

Excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh

When the records against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are stripped off, Sanga has scored 14 centuries in winning consequences. Sachin has scored an equal number of centuries and Lara does not even feature in the list. 50% of Sanga's centuries have resulted in a victory for Sri Lanka.

Player

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

100

50

0

RT Ponting (Aus)

1995-2012

101

169

22

8607

257

58.55

28

39

8

DG Bradman (Aus)

1929-1948

30

43

6

4813

299*

130.08

23

4

3

SR Waugh (Aus)

1987-2003

81

115

24

5914

200

64.98

22

23

6

ML Hayden (Aus)

1997-2009

65

115

11

5485

197

52.74

21

17

5

JH Kallis (SA)

1996-2013

71

111

17

5572

224

59.27

19

24

4

MJ Clarke (Aus)

2004-2014

57

93

12

4636

329*

57.23

16

15

4

JL Langer (Aus)

1993-2007

65

112

10

5077

250

49.77

15

18

5

ME Waugh (Aus)

1991-2002

71

109

12

4704

153*

48.49

15

27

7

GS Chappell (Aus)

1972-1984

38

62

11

3595

204

70.49

14

16

3

CG Greenidge (WI)

1974-1991

57

97

12

4653

226

54.74

14

18

6

KC Sangakkara (SL)

2000-2014

34

57

6

3689

287

72.33

14

12

3

GC Smith (SA)

2002-2014

50

83

9

4309

259

58.22

14

19

2

SR Tendulkar (India)

1990-2013

61

98

13

4671

214

54.95

14

22

2

Win percentage after scoring a century

A batsman’s match-winning ability can be computed by the percentage of matches won after scoring a century. When Sangakkara scores a century, Sri Lanka wins 50% of the games (excluding both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh). This is phenomenal considering the fact that Lara and Sachin has a comparatively lower percentages of 18.75 and 32.55 respectively.

Sangakkara can be considered a machine that propagates centuries at the Test level. Once again detesters claim that most of his centuries have come against against bleaks. But the number of innings he takes to score a test century excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh is still better than both Sachin and Lara.

Innings per century excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh

The lower, the better

Sangakkara scores a century once in every 6.93 innings. He scores a century in every 4.071 test innings in matches won. In other words,  Sangakkara scores a century in nearly every 4 innings when Sri Lanka wins. Sachin’s and Lara’s records are far below than that of Sangakkara.

Number of double centuries excluding those against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh

Sangakkara has 10 Test double centuries, just two less than that of Don Bradman. 6 of his double centuries have come against top quality teams. It is noteworthy that he scored a belligerent 192 against Australia in Hobart and narrowly missed a double ton when Rudi Koertzen, the umpire mistakenly gave him out.

All of Lara’s double centuries have against top teams. Sachin has scored only 4 such double centuries.

Player

Double Centuries

BC Lara

9

KC Sangakkara

6

SR Tendulkar

4

Number of Man of the Match Awards

Man of the match awards is an excellent tool to measure a player's match-winning capability. Sangakkara has won 16 man of the match awards in Tests which is better than Sachin's 14 and Lara's 12. The only batsman with a higher number of Man of the match awards than Sangakkara is Kallis, which may also be because of his all round capability.

Number of man of the match awards

Player

Span

Mat

Awards

JH Kallis (ICC/SA)

1995-2013

166

23

M Muralitharan (ICC/SL)

1992-2010

133

19

Wasim Akram (Pak)

1985-2002

104

17

SK Warne (Aus)

1992-2007

145

17

KC Sangakkara (SL)

2000-2014

128

16

RT Ponting (Aus)

1995-2012

168

16

CEL Ambrose (WI)

1988-2000

98

14

SR Waugh (Aus)

1985-2004

168

14

SR Tendulkar (India)

1989-2013

200

14

DPMD Jayawardene (SL)

1997-2014

149

13

IT Botham (Eng)

1977-1992

102

12

GC Smith (ICC/SA)

2002-2014

117

12

BC Lara (ICC/WI)

1990-2006

131

12

Sangakkara has won 4 man of the series awards. Sachin has 5 and Lara has 4. 

Number of man of the series awards

Player

No. of Man of the Series Awards

BC Lara

4

KC Sangakkara

4

SR Tendulkar

5

Sangakkara’s cumulative Test average

Sanga’s cumulative average graph clearly shows that he has been consistent through out his Test career. The linear average of Sanga has always been in the ascend. He has never averaged below 50 since the 15th of December, 2006. 

In terms of number of innings required, Sangakkara is the fastest batsman to reach 8,000, 9,000, and 11,000 runs in Test cricket. He is also the joint fastest to 10,000. His rate of run scoring per match is far greater than that of Sachin Tendulkar. Sanga’s graph almost aligns with that of Lara except for the tail end, at which Sanga seems to edge ahead of Lara.

Average in the 3rd and 4th innings of a Test match

A batsman’s record in the 3rd and 4th innings of a Test match would show how good a batsman is during pressure situations and under difficult batting conditions. Sangakkara has a far better 3rd and 4th innings average than Sachin and Lara.

Player

Average in the 3rd and 4th Innings (Excl. Zim & Ban)

KC Sangakkara

53.32

BC Lara

38.96

SR Tendulkar

42.95

Sangakkara against world-class bowlers

Sangakkara averages 50.85 when facing oppositions that had any of these following bowlers.

James Anderson or Stuart Broad or Allan Donald or Mitchel Johnson or Brett Lee or Glenn McGrath or Shoaib Akhtar or Dale Steyn or Graeme Swann or Waqar Younis or Shane Warne.


Span

Mat

Runs

HS

Bat Av

100

 

2001-2014

30

2746

287

50.85

7

An average of 50 is commendable, since the aforementioned bowlers are known for their menacing ability.

500 runs in a Test Series

Sangakkara has scored 500 runs in a series once, when he amassed 516 runs from 3 games, scoring at an average of 86 which included two centuries against Pakistan in UAE in 2011/2012. It should be noted that Sangakkara has never been a part of a 4 match or 5 match test series. Even though Sachin has played 5 and 4 match test series, he has not scored in excess of 500 runs in any of those series. Brian Lara has scored over 500 runs in a series 7 times, but he has scored only once in excess of 500 runs in a 3 match series.

Record at Number 3 

Player

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

100

50

0

KC Sangakkara (SL)

2000-2014

120

198

15

11317

319

61.84

36

49

9

R Dravid (ICC/India)

1996-2012

136

219

20

10524

270

52.88

28

50

8

RT Ponting (Aus)

1996-2011

113

196

20

9904

257

56.27

32

43

9

HM Amla (SA)

2006-2014

70

113

11

5753

311*

56.40

20

26

6

DG Bradman (Aus)

1930-1948

40

56

7

5078

334

103.63

20

10

5

Sangakkara has scored the most number of runs at the difficult number 3 position, which proves how good a  batsman he is. Since a number 3 should be able to play both pace bowling and spin bowling equally well, only batsman of exacting qualities can thrive at number 3.

Player

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

100

50

0

DG Bradman (Aus)

1930-1948

40

56

7

5078

334

103.63

20

10

5

KF Barrington (Eng)

1960-1967

27

40

6

2626

172

77.23

13

7

0

WR Hammond (Eng)

1928-1937

37

52

6

3440

336*

74.78

14

4

1

KC Sangakkara (SL)

2000-2014

120

198

15

11317

319

61.84

36

49

9

IVA Richards (WI)

1976-1986

45

59

2

3508

291

61.54

12

14

2

BC Lara (WI)

1992-2006

45

66

4

3749

400*

60.46

9

13

4

Sangakkara’s average at number 3 is bettered only by Bradman, Barrington and Hammond.

Test Ratings

Sanga’s test career rating of 938 is the 6th best ever

Sanga’s career best rating of 938 is greater than that achieved by Kallis, Lara and Tendulkar which speaks volumes about his ability to take a game away from the oppositions.

ICC Awards

Sangakkara was chosen for the ICC Test XI as a wicket-keeping batsman in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2010 he made it to the ICC Test XI as a specialist batsman and in 2011 he was named as the captain of the ICC Test side. He won the LG People's Choice award in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, he was named the Test Player of the Year and also made his way into the ICC Test XI.

Sangakkara has improved immensely since making his debut in Tests. Once primarily a back foot player, he is now able to thread the field with extreme elegance off the front foot. He is improving day by day and match by match. But he doesn't get the same puffery as Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara. It may be because he is not a ball basher but an accumulator. But since 2013, he has added another dimension to his batting by trying to dominate bowling attacks. 

Even though he hasn’t played as many games as he should have overseas, his stats plus some of the innings he played overseas manifest his batting prowess. Just in his 6th match Sangakkara opened the innings for Sri Lanka against South Africa in South Africa braving the venomous pace of Allan Donald, Makhaya Nitni and Jacque Kallis and scored 98. He was the last man to be dismissed as no other Sri Lankan batsman crossed 50.

In the 4th innings of a Test against Australia in Hobart, on a crumbling surface Sangakkara bludgeoned 192 against an attack that had Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clarke and Brett Lee. In comparison to other eminent players, Sanga hadn’t had the chance to play much overseas Tests. In the measly Tests he has played overseas, he has shown the world what he is made of. His performances in England showed how well he has adapted to the English conditions after the spree of earlier failures. In 2014 in England Sanga averaged 85 with the bat. 

Sangakkara's stats and his performances show that he deserves a place along with Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. Statistically, he is the best Test batsman after Sir Donald Bradman. Based on performances even though the elegant left-hander may not have done enough to be called the best after Bradman, he definitely stands out of the rest of the batsman.

The Sri Lankan stalwart has stats that prove that he is as good as Tendulkar or Lara, if not better. Yet, the recognition he deserves still eludes him. May be, had he been born just a few kilometers north of Sri Lanka, you could have heard people saying “Sanga is the best”. 

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