NEW DELHI: Cricket fans are hoping Kumar Sangakkara can sign off in style when he plays the last two tests of his impressive international career in the series against India starting Wednesday in Galle, Sri Lanka.
The elegant left-hander, rated among the best of his era across all formats of the game, stood down from Twenty20 internationals last year after smashing a 35-ball 52 not out to guide Sri Lanka past India in the World T20 final, then struck a record four consecutive centuries in this year’s World Cup.
Fans will be expecting a similar send off against Virat Kohli’s Indian side in the first two matches of the three-test series.
While many feel there is still plenty of cricket left in the 37-year-old, Sangakkara made it clear he did not want to wait for his form to decline. He was contemplating retiring after the World Cup in March, but selectors persuaded him to stay on for the first two tests against India.
“Retiring from cricket is not about form,” the former Sri Lanka captain said. “I feel that the time’s now and it’s right. I think a lot of better players have gone and the game has gone on. There are new players who take the mantle, and in my case it won’t be any different.”
Sangakkara added depth to the Sri Lanka side when the then-22-year-old law student broke into the national side in 2000 as a wicketkeeper-batsman.
Just as he improved his wicket keeping, his batting also matured as his cut and pull shots invariably found gaps in the field while his footwork and timing made the drives and lofted shots look easy.
Sangakkara is Sri Lanka’s most successful test batsman with 12,305 runs in 132 matches. He is fifth on the all-time list and his average of 58.31 is the second-highest for any batsman with more than 7,000 runs.
The quickest batsman to 8,000, 9,000, 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 runs, Sangakkara has notched 38 test centuries. He also has 11 double-centuries, only one short of Sir Donald Bradman’s record of 12. His only triple century (319) came against Bangladesh last year.
Sangakkara forged a number of partnerships with friend and teammate Mahela Jayawardene, the highlight being a test-record 624-run third-wicket stand against South Africa in Colombo in 2006, when Sangakkara smashed 287.
In one-day internationals, his aggregate of 14,234 runs is second only to retired Indian great Sachin Tendulkar. Sangakkara slammed 25 centuries in ODIs while in T20s he smashed eight fifties in 56 games for a total of 1,382 runs.
Jayawardene praised Sangakkara ahead of the India series, describing his as the best batsman his country has produced.
“Kumar’s greatness was his ability to score runs against any attack in all types of conditions,” Jayawardene said. “He pushed his boundaries and has set some imposing targets for the next generation of cricketers.”
And while everyone remembers his batting exploits, his work behind the wickets was also impressive with a total of 182 catches and 20 stumpings in 132 tests, and 402 catches and 99 stumpings in 404 ODIs.
The presence of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, along with wily offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan, made Sri Lanka a formidable side during the 2000s.
Sangakkara figured in two World Cup finals — in 2007 under Jayawardene and as captain in 2011.
Sri Lanka was also runner up In two World T20s — as captain in 2009 and under Jayawardene in 2012, before winning his first world title at the 2014 edition in Mirpur under Angelo Mathews.
Sangakkara won several awards including the International Cricket Council’s Player of the Year in 2012, when he was also named Test Player of the Year and won the People’s Choice award. He was named ODI Player of the Year in 2011 and 2013.