Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara Further Cements His Place at Cricket's Top Table

Richard MorganContributor IAugust 9, 2014

Sri Lankan batsman Kumar Sangakkara celebrates scoring a double century during the fourth day of the first test cricket match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Galle, Sri Lanka, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

Kumar Sangakkara’s latest double-hundred against Pakistan in the first Test at Galle has only served to reaffirm the Sri Lankan’s status as one of the game’s all-time great batsmen.

The erudite law graduate was finally out just before tea on Day 4 for 221, having added 119 more runs to his overnight score, in the process edging past West Indian legend Brian Lara with what was the 10th double-century of his Test career.

And now only Sir Donald Bradman, with 12 double-tons, remains ahead of Sangakkara, although the graceful left-handed batsman did move level with The Don at the Galle International Stadium by compiling the 18th score of 150 or more in his Test career.

Remarkable numbers from a truly remarkable player and one who, when he does finally decide to call it a day, will be remembered as being not just his country’s best-ever batsman, but also alongside both Sachin Tendulkar and Lara as one of the world’s true greats.

Do not forget either that Sangakkara, who was the equal fastest to 10,000 Test runs alongside that aforementioned duo, has had to also contend with keeping wicket throughout many of his 127 Tests to date.

As a result, Sanga’s current average of 59.13—which places him at No. 6 in the all-time Test-match batting averages table—needs to be looked at in that particular light, and yet it is still the highest of any batsman who has played more than 55 Tests or scored more than 7,000 runs.

In fact, when you also factor in the 36-year-old’s excellent batting record outside of Asia, which unlike many other subcontinental stars—especially his best mate Mahela Jayawardene—stands up well in comparison to how he performs in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, then an even clearer picture of the player’s true worth begins to emerge.

Throw in the left-hander’s ability to play both world-class spinners, such as mystery tweaker Saeed Ajmal and express pacemen like Dale Steyn, and it is easy to understand just why Sangakkara is rated so highly.

Ominously, though, for bowlers throughout the world, like a fine wine the veteran simply seems to be getting better with age, if that were possible.

Certainly relinquishing the wicketkeeping duties in the Test arena back in 2008 helped take his batting to new heights, while the No. 3 has continued to churn out the runs during recent series in England and at home to South Africa.

And that decision should ultimately prolong the Sri Lankan’s international career, but for how much longer is open to debate, especially given Jayawardene’s announcement in July to retire from Test cricket at the end of this current series with Pakistan later this month.

Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

Both the experienced duo will definitely carry on until next February’s 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, though, in an attempt to make up for the pain of Sri Lanka losing in the final of the previous two competitions.

However, the former captain may also then opt to follow Jayawardene in calling it a day, by which time he will be 37 and have nothing much left to achieve in the game following what has been a wonderful 2014 so far for the little island in the Indian Ocean.

As not only did Sri Lanka win the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in April, but Sanga and Co. then followed up that momentous achievement by recording their maiden Test series win in England two months later.

So all that leaves to tick off for the Sri Lankan would be a 50-over World Cup triumph Down Under next March, to go alongside his own current personal batting achievements for his country which see Sangakkara with the most Test fifties (50), hundreds (37) and runs (11,886).

Now that would be a fitting finale to a glorious career…