Kumar Sangakkara is a batting maestro. He combines classical technique with modern stroke play, making him a complete batsman in all formats of the game. - Sunil Gavaskar
Let me put it straight. Kumar Sangakkara is the best batsman Sri Lanka has ever produced. - Mahela Jayawardene.
This is what legends like Sunil Gavaskar and Mahela Jaywardene had about the leftie maestro, Kumara Sangakkara. In a sport that has seen so many legends, the left-handed maestro from Sri Lanka stood out for his exceptional talent, elegance, and sportsmanship. Often affectionately called by his fans as Sanga, his batting style was a treat to watch, His cover drive was a piece of beauty and his playing technique was just elegant. Let’s explore more about him and appreciate the legend more!
Credit: ESPN Cricinfo
Early Life and Rise to Prominence:
In his upbringing, Sanga was exposed to a number of sports, but cricket was his preference. He was born on October 27 in 1977, into a middle-class family and as a schoolboy and rose through the ranks swiftly to become a cricketing sensation. He began honing his skills under the guidance of his parents, swiftly got to the top, and became well-known in his community.
Credit: The Cricket Monthly
Sanga's domestic cricket performances contributed to his rise to fame in the cricketing world. He played at the Nalanda College in Colombo before joining the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), where selectors were in awe of his consistent ability to score runs and natural talent. He earned his debut call in 2000 in an ODI match against Pakistan. In this match, he scored a decent 35 off 55 balls and then was run out in a communication mixup with his batting partner.
Playing Style and Technique:
Sanga was one of the most technically sound batsmen that the cricketing world has ever seen. His approach, his ability to find gaps through fielders to pick up boundaries and dependability in the batting order made him a gem of a player for the Sri Lanka National Team. He had a variety of shots, and his methods were flawless. Every stroke he played, whether it was a cover drive, straight drive, a flick, or the signature Sangakkara square cut, was elegant and refined. He could adjust to any format of the game, be it T20s, ODIs and Tests and excel at all three of them, and that showed how versatile he was as a player. Along with being a great batsman, he was also one of the best wicket keepers in the world during his playing years.
Credit: Batting with Bimal
Remember the photo where he was seen smiling just after losing the 2011 ODI World Cup against India. The photo shows how much he appreciated his opponents and his commitment to fair play, which is why his fans love him so much.
Sangakkara had a distinguished international career, especially in Test cricket. He rose to the position of leading Test run-scorer for Sri Lanka thanks to a strong batting average. He scored 12400 runs at an exceptional batting average of 57.40 in the longest format of the game. He developed a reputation as a match-winner thanks to his capacity to notch significant centuries under pressure. Kumar Sangakkara holds the records for the fourth most centuries in international cricket with 63 (38 in tests + 25 in ODIs). He was a crucial member of the team in ODIs with his dependability with the bat and expertise at the stumps. In the 2015 ICC ODI World Cup, he was the lone warrior with the bat for Sri Lanka, scoring a record 4 consecutive centuries.
He has an excellent wicket keeping record too, and is considered one of the GOAT wicket keepers. His 678 scalps (Tests - 151 Dismissals, ODIs - 482 Dismissals, T20Is - 45 Dismissals) with the keeping gloves are just unreal and show how good of a keeper he was.
Leadership and Captaincy:
Sanga took over the job of the Captain in the year 2009 and for years carried the team to multiple successes. He, along with his team mate Mahela Jayawardene were the powerhouse that made Sri Lanka the team to beat in the 2010 decade. He was strategically astute and his leadership skills on the field from behind the stumps, and his performances with the bat played a pivotal role in shaping his national team into a formidable unit. Sanga was cool and composed on the field, but was a menace when it came to performances. That’s what he instilled in his team as a captain.
Under Sangakkara's astute guidance, Sri Lanka achieved remarkable success in crucial competitions. They made it to the ICC T20 World Cup finals in 2009 and 2012, showcasing their ability to thrive under pressure. Though they lost the two finals, it showed how well he had led the team. Sri Lanka won the 2014 T20 World Cup and Sanga was finally an ICC Trophy winner. Sangakkara's knack for leading by example and making wise decisions greatly influenced the team's performance.
Retirement and Post-cricket Career:
The legendary southpaw bid farewell to the cricketing field after playing for 15 years in 2015. His glorious career received acknowledgement and tribute from hundreds of thousands of fans, fellow players and cricketing legends. But how could he ever stay away from the sport he loved so much?
Credit: Forbes India
He has still been associated with the game from outside of the pitch. He took up roles in cricket administration and commentary, and very recently took up coaching of the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. He was also given a prestigious role as the president of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) at Lord's Cricket Ground in 2019, which further cemented his influence in the sport’s fraternity.
Legacy and Recognition:
Kumar Sangakkara's legacy extends beyond his statistics and achievements. His style and batting temperament have inspired a generation of young players. His cover drive was one of the most beautiful cricket shots you’d ever see, and that’s the reason people say that if you want to learn how to play the stroke well, watch videos of Sangakkara playing it.
Sangakkara has garnered various decorations and accolades throughout his career for his brilliance on the field. He has been acknowledged as one of the best wicketkeeper-batsmen of all time and has several times been awarded the Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World. Fans from all over the world praise him for his greatness, and his influence on the sport transcends national boundaries.
Kumar Sangakkara has been one of Sri Lanka’s most dependable batsmen of all time. His contribution for his team with the bat remains invaluable to the Sri Lanka Cricket Team. Beyond cricket, he continues to inspire and lead teams to success in the IPL and by being the chairman of the MCC.