Kumar Sangakkara : The Sri Lankan we adore
We all have our favorites and we adore some one or the other, but there are a few who you want to emulate and Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara is one such gentleman. One of the most influential figures in the history of cricket, he was a man who married both poise and poetry in his batting. A lawyer by profession, he was someone who was articulate in his words and had a statesman-like personality. These traits won him a lot of fans worldwide and he was kept in a very high regard not only among his team-mates but also his opponents.
He came into a well-settled Sri Lankan unit in July 2000 which had plethora of stars like Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttaiah Muralitharan, Aravinda de Silva and Mahela Jayawardena. This did not hinder him from establishing himself as a Test and an ODI regular with his performances against South Africa and England in Tests, where he could not score a century, but was dismissed in the 90s. He had a very successful ODI stint in Singer Cup where he scored 199 runs in 3 matches.
He finally broke the jinx as he scored his first Test century, a classy 105 against the touring Indian team in July 2001 which set up a 10-wicket win. He would go on to to score his first double century against Pakistan in 2002 followed by another masterful 270 in 2004 against Zimbabwe. He played mostly in the shadow of Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardena in the early 2000s but proved himself to be a utility cricketer with his wicket-keeping skills, lending additional balance to the team.
When he was made deputy to Mahela Jayawardena in 2006, he started to have a massive impact on the big stage. He scored 287 and shared a mammoth 624-run stand with Jayawardena against the touring South Africans, which is still the highest partnership in any form of First-class cricket. He ascended to the top of ICC Test Rankings with 938 rating points in the latter part of 2007. His exploits in ODIs were commendable with centuries against India and Pakistan in 2008. When he was given the captaincy in 2009, he led Sri Lanka to the final of the 2009 World T20 in England. Sangakkara also scored 465 runs in the 2011 World Cup and led Sri Lanka to the final, where they were eventually defeated by Dhoni’s Men.
He went on to win the ICC Cricketer of the Year award in 2012 alongside being the ICC ODI cricketer in 2011 and 2013. He was part of the triumphant Sri Lankan team that won a Test series in England in 2014. He also became the only player in World Cup history to score 4 consecutive centuries in ODIs in the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
Once he retired from International cricket in July 2015, he was still the best Sri Lankan batsman with his record breaking performances of scoring 5 consecutive centuries for Surrey in County cricket. He was the fastest to 8000, 9000, 10000, 11000 and 12000 runs in Test cricket and scored 62 international hundreds across 3 formats with over 26000 International runs.
He carried the entire burden of Sri Lankan batting on his shoulders and hardly disappointed anyone. He had a water-tight defense and a very organized technique. His 11 double centuries, next to Sir Don Bradman's 12, is a testament to scoring big runs in tough conditions. Most of the old time and contemporary cricket greats have chosen Kumar Sangakkara in their all-time XI which is a great tribute to this man. He along with Brian Lara would go on as one of the best left handers to have graced the game of cricket.
Unfortunately, Sri Lanka have gone into shambles in recent times and people like Sanga must be involved in some capacity to give their cricketing system a tweak and get them back on track. If he decides to don Sri Lankan colours, it won’t be a bad idea as the game has gone poorer after his retirement.