Kumar Sangakkara is playing his last Test. He has picked the ongoing Second Test against India as his farewell game. He’s within striking distance of a few batting records but as the man himself has pointed out if it has come down to things like records it is time to quit.
He goes out on his terms, he quits on a high. S Rajesh gives the numbers in a piece for Cricinfo titled ‘A colossus who ticked all boxes.
“Among batsmen with at least 8000 Test runs, only Garry Sobers has a better average; in matches which he played as a specialist batsman his average is 67.39, next only to Don Bradman’s 99.94 among batsmen who have at least 1000 Test runs; his tally of 11 double-centuries in Tests is only one short of Bradman’s 12; his 11,629 runs at No. 3 is easily the best, 1105 more than Rahul Dravid’s aggregate at that position, in 14 fewer innings; in Test wins he averages 71.69, which is better than all except four out of 41 batsmen who have scored 3000-plus runs in wins; he is the fastest – in terms of innings – to 8000, 9000, 11,000 and 12,000 Test runs; to 10,000 he is joint-fastest, with Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara.”
One could dwell on the numbers and break them down any which way. but Sangakkara’s greatness does not diminish. And yet he would be the first to say that he just played his part. He was a team man. He knew where he fitted in, he knew what was expected of him. For him, clearly, living up to expectations necessitated that he gave his best and giving his best necessitated 100% commitment to a 360 degree overall of all aspects of the game. His work ethic is legendary, according to team mates. He was never half-way prepared. And he never let up.
For Kumar Sangakkara, time in the middle was not about reaching landmarks. For him it was clearly about doing his job until the close of play or until the captain declared the innings closed. Like all batsmen he was on occasion livid with himself when perishing due to a weak shot or a drop in concentration, but by and large he kept his emotions under check. He had Mr Rational Cricketer written all over him. And it’s as though even the sledging of his early days, the occasional grimace and the wry smile were as carefully crafted as was his MCC ‘Spirit of Cricket’ lecture and executed as exquisitely as his cover drives.
One could say that he leaves the game of cricket impoverished. It would be better to say that he has enriched not just the game but all those associated with it, spectators and fans included. Indeed he has touched even those who would not be able to differentiate a silly point from a short leg. That’s something.
He is a complete cricketer and a gentleman on and off the field. He is articulate to the point that he knows just what to say and when to hold his tongue. He is uncompromisingly competitive. He is as hard as they come in the middle and yet able to leave all that once he steps out of the boundary line and into the dressing room. Over and above all this, he is an exemplary citizen as well as a brand ambassador for this island nation called Sri Lanka.
He is a shining example of how a team man should conduct himself and how a professional should show commitment; someone who more than anyone else demonstrates that genius is not necessary scripted into DNA but is painstakingly crafted into every cell through hard work, persistence, patience and humility. Kumar Sangakkara does not go off the field for the last time and into the evening shadows. Shadows retreat when light arrives. He is like that. A national treasure. An icon, in fact.