Kumar Sangakkara is approaching the finish line of what has been a truly stunning career, with Sri Lanka’s last match of this World Cup to be his last one-day international.
Come August he says he will retire from Test cricket as well.
For anyone who loves the game that news is disheartening. And it also has many asking, “why?”
Today Sangakkara is 37 years 136 days old – certainly a veteran when it comes to international cricket. Yet, unlike many others, his feats on the field have shown no signs of dilution.
Just yesterday he wrote himself into the record books once again with his 124 against Scotland at Hobart. It was his fourth consecutive one-day century, on the back of 105* against Bangladesh, 117* against Australia and 104 against England.
It saw him become the first man to score four centuries at the one World Cup, and also made him the first batsman to score four ODI tons on the trot.
Not bad for a 37-year-old.
So far this year Sangakkara has played 13 ODIs and scored 817 runs at 90.8, with five centuries and a strike rate of 110. They are numbers that set him aside from other players who have plied their trade at such an age.
Yet come the end of Sri Lanka’s campaign in Australia and New Zealand he will hang up the pyjamas.
It is not unreasonable for batsmen to pull the pin on their limited-overs careers in an endeavour to increase their longevity in Test ranks. Sadly, post his ODI retirement Sangakkara will only remain active in the Test arena for another five months, having stated that he will “be done by the end of August”.
He will ride off into the sunset following a home three-Test series against India in August, and he will do so with some fine numbers.
His 403 ODIs to date have seen him amass 14,189 runs, second only to Sachin Tendulkar, with 25 centuries at an average of 42.0.
After 130 Tests he sits fifth on the all-time list of run-scorers with 12,203 runs at 58.7 with 38 centuries. It is an average that tops the likes of Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis.
While Sangakkara’s career has been one of continual high achievement, his performances since turning 35 have really stood out.
In the 19 Tests he has played since then he has scored 2331 runs at 68.6, an average that outdoes all the other modern-day players who have also plied their trade into their late-30s.
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Sangakkara has amassed his runs with one of the most attractive techniques in the game, with his signature shot a cover drive of classical beauty.
Throughout his career he has shown an insatiable appetite for runs.
Only Don Bradman (12) has surpassed Sangakkara’s 11 double centuries, and had he not run out of partners on 199 against Pakistan at Galle in 2012 he would likely sit proudly alongside The Don.
One of the great imponderables is just what Sangakkara’s record would look like had he never kept wickets. In the 48 Tests in which he donned the gloves he averaged 40.5, while playing as a batsman only his average is a staggering 69.4
He is highly respected both on and off the field and has led a career that has been totally unblemished by scandal.
Teammates and opponents all speak of him in glowing terms, for he has played the game in an exemplary fashion in an era that has not always been known for such niceties.
We will only have the opportunity to witness his brilliance for a few more months which, given his recent form, just doesn’t seem fair.
He will leave the game far richer for having played it.
In an era where words like ‘legend’, ‘great’ and ‘superstar’ are mindlessly bandied about, there is no argument that all of those terms aptly describe Kumar Sangakkara.