Kumar Sangakkara, the Prince of Modern Sri Lanka Cricket will ring down the curtain on a remarkable career in this week's test against the Indians at P. Sara Oval, Colombo. My earliest memory of Sangakkara goes way back to early 2000s where he ran out Aravinda de Silva in a tight chase against the mighty Aussies. It was the semifinal of the 2003 cricket world cup in South Africa. People used to call him “Gandassara” back then. After more than 12 years, people around the world absolutely love him and adore him now.
Sangakkara made his debut in the year 2000. I was not much of a cricket follower back then. I started watching cricket in 2003 and have been watching the game ever since then. I’m a very keen reader of the game as well. Sangakkara’s elevation to the next level as a cricketer and my love for the game of cricket sort of coincide in way because both happened in 2003. After a disappointing word cup campaign, he went to Sharjah for a quadrangular that featured Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Kenya. He immediately made a mark by hitting two consecutive tons which announced the arrival of Sangakkara, the perfectionist.
Sangakkara hasn’t looked back since then. He had a remarkable 2004 where he piled on the runs in both one day cricket and test match cricket. I remember the hundred he scored against the Austrians at R. Premadasa Stadium in a run chase which Sri Lanka eventually lost. He must have hit as many as 15 or 16 boundaries and I still remember how excited Dean Jones was at the commentary box after each four. That was his third one day international hundred and he ended his career with plenty more.
In my books, Sanga isn’t the prettiest batsman I have seen. He himself admits it. He is certainly a better looking batsman than say someone like Gary Kirsten. But when you draw comparisons with a player like Brian Lara, he falls behind by a country mile! From what I’ve heard and what I’ve read over the years, Sangakkara falls into the category of hard workers rather than naturally gifted ones. He sure has loads of natural talent but then again when you compare him with his good mate Mahela Jayawardena, you could easily say that Mahela is blessed with more natural talent and ability.
Countless number of people have said that Sangakkara is the most hardworking cricketer they have ever come across. When you see his numbers and how they have improved over the years, you can’t argue with them. When you closely watch Sangakkara’s game, you could see that he focuses on every small detail and tries to correct every little mistake he makes. A prime example is the double hundred he scored against the Kiwi’s early this year. Sangakkara always had this bad habit of poking at deliveries wide outside the off stump. In the first test of the series, Trent Boult and Tim Southee exploited this weakness in both innings and had him caught behind. It was said that leading up to the second test in Wellington, Sangakkara spent several hours in the nets ironing out this issue and the result was a fantastic double hundred against a good attack in challenging conditions. His 192 against Australia in Hobart was another scintillating innings under extreme pressure. Not a flat track bully for sure!
Another great characteristic of Sangakkara is his determination and hunger for success. Going into the tour of England in 2014, Sangakkara had not hit a century at Lords. Sanga himself had expressed his great desire to get a hundred at Lords which is considered to be the home of cricket by many. Through his sheer determination, he scored a century not just in the test match but in the one day game as well. There are many such examples you can unearth when you analyse his illustrious career. It is this determination, hunger and discipline that enabled him to achieve way more than what his natural talent called out for. You look at players like Saeed Anwar, Stephen Fleming and Sourav Ganguly who had more natural talent, Sangakkara has achieved way beyond all of them through his sheer hard work. A lesson for everyone, not just cricketers who think that they are not as blessed as some of the others.