Bangladesh v SL, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 2nd day

The case for Sangakkara's all-time greatness

Kumar Sangakkara does not usually feature in discussions of modern batting greats. His numbers demand for that to change

Andrew Fidel Fernando in Chittagong

February 5, 2014

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Kumar Sangakkara powers the ball down the ground, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 2nd day, February 5, 2014
Kumar Sangakkara has the same number of double-centuries as Brian Lara, but does not consider himself in the same league © AFP
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Players/Officials: Kumar Sangakkara
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka tour of Bangladesh
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Kumar Sangakkara approached his maiden triple-hundred at a sprint. When the eighth wicket fell, he had been on 253 - in danger of being stranded short of a milestone he later admitted he desired, if only to "be part of the club". The team's goals happily aligned with his own in the late afternoon, lighting a fire underneath his feet. He sped forward from the crease often, with brutal intent.

His final 52-runs as a non-member of the 300-club were walloped in 30 balls, but although Sangakkara was still mid-frenzy when he passed the milestone, his celebrations were remarkably collected. A hand-grasp with his partner followed the raising of both arms, before the helmet came off, briefly. Within 90 seconds, he was taking guard again.

Perhaps he knew that he had not unlocked anything new in himself in the course of his epic. There were few thorny periods to overcome, and an already-battered opposition had been further hamstrung by an injury to a frontline bowler, as well as their captain and wicketkeeper. His team could not have claimed their commanding position without him, but at a personal level, perhaps his greatest achievements on Wednesday were his statistical harvests.

Sangakkara became the quickest man to 11,000 runs on Wednesday. Though outside Sri Lanka he is rarely spoken of in the same breath as the modern batting greats, that discussion is now long overdue.

The first port of call for any such exercise is his average. At a career-high 57.83, he comfortably outstrips Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting, and is better than Jacques Kallis by more than two runs. Of the seven batsmen that boast better averages (qualification: 2000 career runs), Ken Barrington had the most recent career, from 1955 to 1968. None of the men above him have scored 8000 runs, nor played more than 90 Tests. The debate then moves to how many of Sangakkara's runs mean little? He is by far Bangladesh's lead tormentor with the bat, having struck 1711 runs against them - over 15% of his career total. He has not gone easy on Zimbabwe in six innings either, averaging 89.88.

To dismiss all those runs is unwise, particularly in light of this Chittagong innings, where only one other Sri Lanka batsman passed 50 and no one else reached triple figures. But for the sake of argument, Sangakkara has impressive numbers even if those teams are omitted. Of batsmen who have played in the last 15 years (qualification: 2000 runs), only Kallis has a better average than Sangakkara's 52.68, and that only 0.30 higher. If the last 30 years are considered, Javed Miandad is the only other cricketer to join Kallis above Sangakkara on that list.

A charge often leveled at Sri Lanka batsmen is that they make their runs on flat home pitches. Galle's dry surface, however, is often as stiff a test of batting technique as any track in the world, and the P Sara Oval is regularly a result-venue. Still, omitting draws, and only counting matches among the top eight nations, Sangakkara's figures hold up. Of the seven modern batsmen who have better averages in wins or losses, four - Ponting, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist and Damien Martyn - are from the legendary Australia team. The remaining three are AB de Villiers and Pakistan's Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saeed Anwar. Tendulkar and Lara both rank well below Sangakkara.

His away record against the top-eight teams does not place him as highly in the pantheon, but at 45.37, he is hardly liability outside Sri Lanka. Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Lara and Kallis have better away averages, alongside a host of other modern players, but Sangakkara's returns are marginally better than Ponting's.

Where Sangakkara sets himself apart from Lara, Ponting and Tendulkar in particular, and veers towards all-time greatness, is when his records as a specialist batsman are separated from his career as a wicketkeeper-batsman. Sangakkara has not been the designated keeper for 61% of his 122-Test career, and in those matches, he has averaged 69.55. Only Don Bradman sits above him, and he is almost five clear of the next man. Clyde Walcott surpasses Sangakkara if Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are again stricken from his record, but he drops only that one place, retaining an average of 61.41. The next remotely modern batsman is Miandad, who scored his runs at 53.30.

Sangakkara has hundreds against and in every Test nation, but perhaps there are more gaps in his record than the other modern greats. He averages 30.58 in England - a statistic he will hope to partially rectify in two Tests there in June. His average of 36.50 in India will likely remain at retirement, as will his 35.75 in South Africa. Unlike Ponting, Tendulkar and Lara, he was also incapable of demoralising attacks for much of his career - though recently that has begun to change. It is perhaps for this reason he does not place himself in the same realm as batting hero Brian Lara, whose double-century count he matched.

"I grew up watching and idolising sir Vivian Richards," Sangakkara said. "Then Brian Lara came along and he was magical to watch so I am pretty happy to have equalled him in some kind of way. But I don't think I will equal him as a batsman, because I think he is on a completely different level to most of the batsmen I have seen.

"I think I have surpassed him in very little. I may be fastest to 11,000 or whatever, but I don't think I compare myself to him at all. There is no use of comparing myself to him. To me he is beyond reach."


Whatever Sangakkara's own view, consistency is its own form of dominance. As he reaps the numerical rewards of his 14-year toil, it is time the wider cricket world appreciated his stature.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (February 9, 2014, 16:55 GMT)

He averages in the 40s outside of Asia, and we must remember that the Australian teams he played were weak and in a period of rebuilding. I rank his classic innings against South Africa as his best.

Posted by   on (February 8, 2014, 8:12 GMT)

Sanga is a great batsmen but he cannot be clubbed with Lara, Sach, Pointing, Inzi for the simple reason that he has never evoked fear in opposition bowlers as these have. Lara and Sachin in their first half careers played much better bowlers. They played against the likes of Walsh, Ambrose, Wasim, Waqar, Saqlain, McGrath, and Donald. Sanga and most of the current lot have not faced these greats. Stats tell only a part of story.

Posted by Kod. on (February 8, 2014, 5:18 GMT)

I feel like these peeps don't watch cricket... They just look at stats and talk crapppp... Watch cricket then you all critiques realize how beautiful cricket is with such dynamics and comparison aren't required.... Elite level cricket at the end of the day is what matters is stats.... Sanga is so consistent and you can't hate fone talent of God. If they do then they pretty much hate God... Simple... Snag is fine cricket creation of God... Lara sach, Kallis Pontng Hayden and there are some young upcoming fine talents. Appreciate cricket watch.. Don't just look at records and stats without watching a game.....

Posted by   on (February 7, 2014, 15:56 GMT)

as a sri lankan , Sanga Thank you sir for your duties off the field and on the field , you are already a truely great , all this comment s about you suggest that you are , keep hitting those hundreds no matter what the opponent ICC have given Test status . let the little fellows weep , YOU can break the DON'S 12 doubles . No need to compare with other batsmen coz you are Kumar Sangakkara the one and only .

we dont expect a Sanath Jayasooriya innings from you and VIce-versa , you have shown your strength and now they cant stand it. PROUD OF YOU SIR

Posted by rar_ind on (February 7, 2014, 13:18 GMT)

There is no doubt that Sanga and Mahela are 2 all-time greats from SL. In terms of records, I think Sanga would end up very close to that of Sachin's at the time of his retirement. But, he will remain underrated because of the lack of showmanship and swagger and also he was not regarded as a young prodigy when he came in. He may not be a Lara or a Ponting or a Sachin but he is a great player nonetheless!

Posted by SamRoy on (February 7, 2014, 12:00 GMT)

Sangakkara is a great player. Just like Dravid was a great player or a Ponting was a great player or as Pietersen is a great player. In fact in my view Sangakkara is slightly better as he is more consistent. But all these players scored their runs against not so great bowling attacks and when they faced truly great attacks they were sometimes successful but more often than not failed. That's why the 90s Lara and Tendulkar (Tendulkar after 2003 is not a half the batsman he was prior to that) were a class apart. They pulverized great bowling attacks. Personally, Viv Richards > Lara > Sachin > Rest.

Posted by SuchaSL on (February 7, 2014, 3:12 GMT)

No wonder he is the fastest to 11000, he was also fastest to 8000, 9000 and 10000. I hope he will join the 400 club very soon.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 21:56 GMT)

Most SC players do better on SC pitches. Sangakkara's away record is as decent as anybody's. His MoM record too is exceptional. Not sure what his detractors want more. And what to say of people who still can't realize how Bradman was so special compared to the likes of Tendulkar!

Posted by Rebel_Who_Follows_All_The_Rules on (February 6, 2014, 20:53 GMT)

Arsath Careem: LOL, What an epic FAIL. Why the hell would you omit what Sachin did from 1989 to 2000?? Just because Sanga made his debut in 2000??? FYI, by the time Sanga made his debut, Sachin was already part of the upper echelon of batsmen in world cricket.Btw, did you or someone else score runs for Sachin from 89 to 2000??? Were you the one who had to face the likes of Imran, Wasim and Waqar at the tender age of 16??? Were you the one who scored a century at the WACA (the fastest wicket in world cricket at the time) when the rest of the guys in the side were struggling to get bat on ball??? Yeah,didn't think so.Also, by the time Sanga made his debut in test cricket, Sachin had already scored 3 centuries each in Aus and Eng, 2 in SA and 1 in NZ.So to discount what he did before 2000 just because Sanga had not made his debut yet is just plain stupid!!!

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 19:33 GMT)

TRUTH: Sanga va Sachin since Sanga's debut

Sachin Matches - 124 Innings - 208 Runs - 9885 HS - 248* Average - 52.86 50s - 44 100s - 29 Sanga Matches - 117 Innings - 200 Runs - 10486 HS - 287 Average - 56.98 50s - 42 100s - 33 Let's see about overall stats Last 40 INNS Sangakkara 9 centuries BUT, Sachin NO CENTURIES. Check it. sachin did not score a test century since 02 JANUARY 2011 ( FOR 1050 DAYS ) Sachin scored only 1243 runs in his last 40 inns with an average of 32.71 (no centuries only 9 fifties) BUT Sangakkara 2179 runs in his last 40 inns with an AVERAGE of 60.52 . (Sanga scored 9 centuries and 8 fifties) . Sangakkara scores a century every 6.06 inns but Sachin every 6.45 inns (Sanga 33 centuries in 200 inns but Sachin 51 in 329 inns ) DOUBLE CENTURIES Sangakkara scores a double century every 25 inns but Sachin every 55 inns (Sanga 8 double centuries in 200 inns , sachin 6 double centuries) DOUBLE CENTURIES Sangakkara scores a double century every 25 inns but Sachin every 55

Posted by stormy16 on (February 6, 2014, 15:50 GMT)

I dont get this constant jibes at SL batters particularly Sanga and Mahela. Its almost like the rest of the world want somehow ignore the fact that these two are in the top bracket of batters no matter which way you look at it. Sure like most batters the away record may not be as good but surely you gauge a batter on his overrall record. If you start breaking it down you end up with all sorts of meaningless debates. For example S Waugh made a ton of runs against a really weak England for a 15 year period, a period in which even SL beat Eng in Eng. Does this mean his record is somehow diminshed. I dont recall any of the great batters (except Lara) reeling off hundreds in SL where there are apparent flat tracks. Lara got 400, the match was a draw as the pitch was flat so does that make the record any less? Grow up folks and be a sport and have the guts to give credit where it due.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 15:24 GMT)

@Lakmal Physics.Sach scored tons @ the age of 37 in SA vs steyn,morkel.scored vs Tremlett,Caddick,Gough,Harmison,Flintoff.Vs Aus faced- McDermot,Hughes,Mc Grath,Lee,Jason and even some WI legends.If anything its Sanga who hasnt faced the bowling legends.Truth proves itself.Sanga is 77 tests behind sach and PPL compare him with sach?some players dont even play 77 tests.Cant play for 24 years unless you are a child prodigy like sach who scored 100s in Aus and Eng at the age of 17.Sach had a late peak b/w 2008 and 2011 when he scored 11 tons at an ave of 60+.At 177 tests Sach averaged 57.Huge gap b/w runs scored by Sachin and Sanga especially outside Asia.Sanga played 15 tests vs Ban,Sach played 39 tests vs Aus alone( difference).Kohli isnt better than Viv,sach just coz he is the fastest to 5000.Sanga is a modern great but has 30+ ave in Ind,SA,Eng and WI(4 nations is too many).Gotta score in most conditions(if not all) to enter the Elite club of Sach,Pont,Lara,Kallis,Dravid.Hope he will.

Posted by timtom on (February 6, 2014, 15:14 GMT)

AN article is indeed needed to assert that Sanga is great otherwise the feeling is he is just an accumulator..How much accumulated does`nt matter... Over the last 2-3 years Sanga has tried to be more aggressive and getting runs at fast clip. just that it should have been so from beginning of the career. He would indeed been an all time great without this article.. Not just that.. Sanga`s scores test centuries or runs once the series has been decided. All thru career...The author has conveniently ignored the fact.. With out any of these runs KP is any day better than Sanga ..Difference between entertainer and accumulator .....[Sanga might continue to accumulate 20000k ..AND indeed he is MODERN GREAT but comparison with Sachin, Lara, PONTING ... Come ON !!!!

Posted by anoopshameed on (February 6, 2014, 15:07 GMT)

@LakmalPhysics, nice rant mate! In other words, Sangakkara's better average is due to his longevity!-if he had retired couple of years earlier, none of this would have mattered :D .

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 14:30 GMT)

It's always a futile discussion rating greats against each other. Statistics cannot be the only measure of greatness- with it we need to consider the impact on the opposition, the respect from fellow players, the humility the player displays and the charm that the player brings to the game. By all those counts and also the stats, Sanga is an all time great and holds a special player in hearts of true cricket fans.

Posted by Lord.emsworth on (February 6, 2014, 13:41 GMT)

Can you measure cricketing greatness? For Sri Lanka Aravinda De Silva didn't amass the runs Sangakarra has made, but many, place him well over Sanga and Mahela. Of the often spoken greats, Lara, Richards, Sobers, even more recently Jayasuriya and Shewag, tore naturally into attacks demoralizing bowlers - an innate talent. Tendulkar, Kallis, Dravid, Sangakarra & Ponting in the ten thousand club could also demolish attacks, but were more often sublime accumulators. Then there are the many others who haven't amassed over ten thousand runs but can also boast the 'great' stamp type Rohan Kanhai, Viswanath, Botham, Harvey or Ted Dexter. One mustn't forget the great grinders like Lawry and Boycott either. BTW, Andrew seems to have forgotten the bowlers! If a general cricket greatness stamp is declared Murali and Warne must be right on top…

Posted by kentjones on (February 6, 2014, 13:16 GMT)

Statistics can sometimes be misleading in the evaluation of any sportsperson. However, when a player has scored 11000 runs, with 34 centuries, including 9 doubles in over 120 matches at an average of 56.45, one must sit up and take notice. The cricket world must acknowledge and celebrate his cricketing genius and place him where he belongs, among the greats of the game. This Sri Lankan giant is crafting and embellishing his name indelibly in the cricket hall of fame: Kumar Sangakarra must not be denied his rightful due!

Posted by LakmalPhysics on (February 6, 2014, 13:10 GMT)

To my Indian fans: Yeap, Sachin has a better average in England but thanks to that mediocre bowling attack england had in 90's. After England found some pacy guns, especially after 2006, Sachin's average is 35.78 in 7 matches in England and Sanga's is 34.58 in 9 matches during that period. And in South Africa, Sachin managed to make up his average thanks to his longevity. Before the begining of last Indian tour to SA, Sachin's average was 39.76 in 12 games and it's 35.75 in 8 games for Sanga. We all know that any good player show better performnace with added experience and that's same for Sanga and Sachin. No much difference between them and one can not say this guy is better than that guy. But no one can compete with Sanga's consistency except Bradmon. Lara, Sachin, Ponting, Kallis, Dravid everyone had lean patches during their carriers but only exception is Sanga. Keep in mind that Sanga will deliver more and time is the only constraint that he needs to tackle.

Posted by Blade-Runner on (February 6, 2014, 12:26 GMT)

Sanga is the greatest batsman of this era 'n one of the all time greats. He stands above all other self-proclaimed gods 'n Knights. He is breaking record after record 'n these fanboys are feeling insecure. lol At the same time, he is so humble 'n being very modest about his achievements. A true legend !! Sanga has never had concessions from his board 'n always justified his selection unlike others whose respective boards arranged special series against minnows at home to help 'em out. Its not Sanga's fault that he hasn't got to play many matches in Aus, SA n etc. But He has played memorable innings whenever he got the opportunity. Ponting has rated Sanga's 192 at Hobart as the greatest inning played on Australian soil by a visiting player. Some people don't have stomach to accept those facts. lol Sanga is already an All Time Great 'n will go down in the history as one of the greatest batsman ever tohave played the game of Cricket.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 11:41 GMT)

Sangakara is a Sri Lankan great. But, can not add him to the bracket of all time greats. Greatness is achieved while dominating your game out of your comfort zone rather than familiar conditions. His average overseas is just average. The question "Why Sangakara doesn't pop up while discussing about all-time greats" has the answer in it. Because, he isn't one.

Quite amused by people compare him with Sachin Tendulkar, who has a "at least" 40+ test average in every country he's played cricket. Look at Snaga's, they're just plain average overseas, expect Australia.

Sanga much belongs to 2nd string of greats like Ganguly, Inzi and such, but never in the bracket of Sachin, Lara, Punter and such. Period.

Posted by Cricthink on (February 6, 2014, 11:07 GMT)

Statistics may not really be the Only thing that matters in judging greatness. It does to some extent and Sanga's stats are right up with all others everyone consider Great. Remember he kept Wickets too and batted at Top of the order + The team he played he was the Anchor unlike others. How many matches did Sachin win or for that matter Lara? I remember Lara scoring 600 runs in a 3 match series in Sri lanka and still West Indies lost 3 to nothing. It's easy to criticize one and praise the other. We all know, Sanga is there among the greats and he will continue to prove his mettle as he has few more years left in him

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 9:29 GMT)

@pradip1127 - You keep talking about playing against the best team in the world of their time (Australia). The ony thing that is even more harder than playing Australia is playing Australia in Aus. Tendulkar in 38 innings has scored 50 or more vs. Aus in Aus 13 times while Lara has done so 8 out of 33 times while Dravid has done so 7 out of 30 times and finally Sanga has done so 6 out of 10 times. Batting in the 3rd or 4th innings of a Test vs. Aus in Aus is monumentally difficult as that is when they go for the knock out punch and exert extreme pressure on the opposition. In the face of such immense pressure, Tendulkar AVGs 26 and Lara 20 neither have scored more than 80 runs in an inning. Sanga averages 87 with one century and two fifties.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 9:14 GMT)

@pradip1127 - One century from 11 Tests (home and away) against the best team of his time (Australia) by Sanga still looks way better than what India's unbreakable wall, Dravid did against the Aussies which is just 2 centuries from 32 Tests (home and away) and an average of just 39.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 8:53 GMT)

@athreya83 - Just like Sanga averages 30 in Eng, 36 SA and 37 in Ind I would like to point out that India's overseas hero Dravid averages a shocking 29 in SA, 41 in Aus and just 33 on the roads of Sri Lanka. Similarly Kallis averages just 35 in home like conditions in Eng and also 35 in SL while Lara averages 33 in India (no centuries), 41 in Aus and just 36 in NZ. Ponting averages 26 in India and 41 in England and just because he averages 45 in SL, according to you "he aint bad in Asia" I can then use the same argument and say Sanga averages 60 in Australia and 67 in NZ and therefore he aint bad away from the sub-continent as well. Your desperate need to belittle sanga has exposed your ridiculous logic.

Posted by pradip1127 on (February 6, 2014, 8:52 GMT)

HE is good player only in asia If you are best in the world then you have to scored against the best team in the world that lacking in sanga case.

and Sachin, lara scored against the best team in the world and best bowler in the world of their Time.

Posted by pradip1127 on (February 6, 2014, 8:32 GMT)

sanga has scored only one century against the best team of his time, that shows his graetness.

opponent Matches Inning Not out Runs High Score 100 50 Average  Australia 11 21 1 878 192 1 7 43.9  Bangladesh 13 18 3 1758 222* 5 5 82.31  England 19 34 1 1,205 152 2 6 36.52  India 15 24 2 1,257 219 5 2 57.13  New Zealand 10 17 3 672 156* 3 2 48  Pakistan 16 29 4 2,320 230 9 7 89.23  South Africa 15 28 0 1,362 287 3 5 48.64  West Indies 12 19 2 918 157* 3 5 54  Zimbabwe 5 6 0 536 270 2 1 89.33 TOTAL 117 198 15 10,486 287 33 40 56.98

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 8:18 GMT)

I think people want to compare Sanga's averages in ENG,AUS and SA, they should compare them with the averages of Ponting, Kallis, Lara in subcontinental conditions. What is the basis that says playing in superbly maintained batting tracks in Australia is easier than playing in tracks like galle?

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 8:10 GMT)

Greater then sachin.

Posted by smudgeon on (February 6, 2014, 7:54 GMT)

I can't make cases for greatness based on statistics, and while us cricket fans love to talk averages, home centuries vs. away centuries, centuries in 4th innings losing sides against opposition bowlers who are all left-handed, it's not an exercise that proves much beyond our ability to pick numbers supporting our own peculiar arguments. Having said that, when I think of the batsmen I LIKE to watch, and embody those unquantifiable qualities that make cricket such a joy, I rank Sangakkara higher than any of the other recent giants of batting. Sanga might be too modest about Brian Lara comparisons, but on the pure aesthetics of their strokeplay, I can't separate them. That's my personal case for Sangakkara's greatness. Discuss.

Posted by Harry31j on (February 6, 2014, 7:24 GMT)

I think the reason Sanga isn't perceived in public eyes as truly great is even despite his good avg not many people remember anytime he TURNED THE TIDE of a test on his own, he didn't dominate bowlers when none others in his team could, didn't take his team to safety in spite of other team members failure. I don't remember any such innings against top 8 teams. A case in point is Kevin Pieterson who has much less avg than Sanga but still opposition feared him more, because he had the capacity to take match away from opposition ON HIS OWN unlike Sanga. Of course this point is not to make out Sanga as not being great but as not being PERCEIVED as great.

Posted by athreya83 on (February 6, 2014, 7:20 GMT)

@James Cooper : Bradman had an average that was ~45 runs higher than his peers, so let's give him the benefit of the doubt. He averaged greater than 50 in the bodyline series. Lets not bring ol' Don into the picture ya..

Ponting has an average ~45 against Sri Lanka in Lanka. So he aint bad in Asia.. although as you say his average in India is really bad. But Sangakkara averages ~30 IN england, ~35 IN South Africa and West Indies and surpise~36 in the Roads of India. He has a good average in Australia Though.. Would be curious to see how he performs there next time. Surely an average of <40 in three different countries makes you think he loves the roads of Galle and Colombo ya

Posted by S.Jagernath on (February 6, 2014, 7:16 GMT)

Kumar Sangakkara is a lovely batsman to watch,he even has played some innings of substance away from Sri Lanka.The inclusion of him in the realm of greatness is somewhat of an issue,he just has done too little in England,South Africa & India.Nevertheless,he is Sri Lanka's greatest batsman & probably their second greatest cricketer.

Posted by cric_leo on (February 6, 2014, 7:10 GMT)

we all talk about sangas weaknesses, then let see the picture this way. if we think about sir bradman in his era it didn't have streamlined LBW decisions, third umpire decisions, and DRS system or modern opposition planning techniques (eg. statistical analysis, video footage reviews and so on) and he didn't travel sub continent hardly and at that time most of the countries apart from ENG, AUS, INDIA are cricketing minnows. if we consider his average, we have consider above mentioned conditions as well. All are blaming about Sangakkara's away records. Nobody ask how many matches his playing with those country's which having well respected fast tracks and how frequent he played with them. SL hardly having away test series as their FTP were more involve with home series. In 2013 they only play one solitary test match against PK as away series. How somebody can improve their records without adequate opportunity to play away from home.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 7:05 GMT)

Like I said in one of my earlier comments there is no doubt that Sanga has not done justice to his talent, skill and ability with averages of 30 in Eng, 36 in SA and 37 in India. However, he has shown time and time again that he is more than capable of playing in both England and SA without much difficulty. His 98 in just his 4th Test back in 2001 in SA against a SA pace attack comprising of Donald, Kallis, Pollock and Ntini despite opening the batting and being last out after a 5 plus hour stay in the middle and his match winning Test match hundred vs. Steyn & Co in 2011 in SA and his match saving hundred vs. Eng's full strength attack of Anderson, Broad, Tremlett and Swann in ENG in 2011 underlines his tremendous and unquestionable ability.

Also, there are many other all time greats who have similar gaps in their careers as well.

DRAVID - 33 in SL, 41 in AUS & 29 in SA LARA - 33 in IND, 41 in AUS & 36 in NZ KALLIS - 35 in ENG & 35 in SL PONTING - 26 in IND and 41 in ENG

Posted by athreya83 on (February 6, 2014, 6:59 GMT)

Sangakkara is a very good player.. But a legend.. Guess not.. His stats are very good even if you take away games against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe..but he has very poor stats outside Asia and there in lies the problem. Sign of true greatness lies in the ability to adjust to alien conditions and score runs.. Here is where the man comes short! He and Mahela are very good players but that is about it. Very Good and no more. He is nowhere close to the Sachin/Lara Class.

P.S: Am an Indian and i consider most indian batsmen to be Flat track bullys (including Sehwag for most of his career)

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 6:51 GMT)

@Robert Eddings - Sanga has 12 scores of 190 plus (equal with Don Bradman who also had 12 scores of 190 plus against ONE oppoenent in home or home like conditions) and they are 192 vs. Australia (which is the highest 4th innings score of all time by a visiting batsman to Australia), 192 & 199 N.O against Pak, 287 and 232 against SA, 219 vs. Ind, 211 & 230 vs. Pak. In additon to this he has 3 scores of 190 plus vs. Bangladesh and one against ZIM. Let's also not forget that he scored 156 N.O in Wellington against Shane Bond at his best when SL were all out for just 268 in 2006.

Posted by ahassan on (February 6, 2014, 6:46 GMT)

@Wefinishthis and other Tendulkar fans... please don't mislead readers. Sangakara's stats are better than Tendulkar even if you take away his performances against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Sangakara's average drops down to 52.68 without Bangladesh and Zimbabwe but Tendulkar's average drops down to 50.01 without Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and it makes Sangakara a better batsman than Tendulkar all the way. It is unfortunate that Sangakara and Kallis do not have the backing and hype of more than 1.2 billion people behind them.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 6:36 GMT)

@Robert Eddings - I find your reasoning as to why Sanga is not an all time great laughable. Bradman scored all of his runs against one opposition in home or at best home like conditions and yet people claim him to be the greatest ever. Would he have survived on a rank turner in Galle or in India? We will never know. Yet when talking about Asian batters the constant talk is about performances outside of Asia? Why is this? Do you think when a Sanga, Tendulkar or a Younis Khan goes out to bat in Colombo, Mumbai or Lahore the scoreboard starts ticking away even before they take guard? If it is that easy to score runs in Asia then why does Ricky Ponting AVG a pathetic 26 with the bat in India? (was well under 15 until one hundred saved him from even further embarrassment) Just because of his horror run in India do Australians or others consider him to be any less of a player even though he failed in the most stern examination of spin anywhere in the world? I doubt it.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 6:27 GMT)

@Wefinishthis, This is his stats excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;filter=advanced;opposition=1;opposition=140;opposition=2;opposition=3;opposition=4;opposition=5;opposition=6;opposition=7;opposition=8;orderby=batting_average;qualmin1=2000;qualval1=runs;template=results;type=batting. He averages 52.68. Only Kallis is better than him from modern batsmen(52.98)

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 6:25 GMT)

@Wefinishthis - You really need to read an article and grasp its content fully before throwing accusations that the writer did not cover this or that. You say Andrew didn't reflect on Sanga's AVG against the major teams (excluding BD and ZIM) when he actually did and NO Sanga does not AVG 47 when you take away his knocks against ZIM abd BD. In fact excluding BD and ZIM Sanga still averages a terrific 52.68 with the bat and that happens to be the 3rd best Test batting average over the last 30 years (result qualification; 5,000 plus Test runs against the major teams excluding BD and ZIM). Only Kallis and Lara with averages of 52.85 and 52.83 resectively are just marginally higher than Sanga.

Posted by neo-galactico on (February 6, 2014, 5:55 GMT)

Whilst I agree that Sanga's stats are great I do feel the numbers flatter him ever so slightly. I presume that's how most fans from other countries felt about Jacques Kallis for a long time. It so happens that his approach, record in tougher batting conditions, and general aesthetics don't give me warmth or goosebumps none whatsoever. So although Sanga is statistically a great, from a visual point of view he's just a very good batsman according to me.

Posted by srikanths on (February 6, 2014, 5:51 GMT)

He is a terrific player and a prolific scorer,definitely one of the best but what sets a Tendulkar and a Lara apart was their record and ability against the best in business,namely Australia, England and SA and more so abroad. Of course one has to concede that SL does not play that much abroad angst the best but the little that they have played, Sanga while very good hasn't so far matched up to a Sachin or a lara. But leaving them out , he possibly measures up very well and case is definitely there to be made for "greatness"

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 5:23 GMT)

No offense to Sachin. He can walk into the all time greats with the might of his runs. But Sanga can't because he played against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, isn't it? May be country of origin matters I guess. Bangladesh are not pussy cats. They have a really decent spin attack. They are still not strong enough in tests with their batting. But no one can deny they are a good spin attacks. Most people outside subcontinent thinks sub continent only has flat pitches. But look at youngsters like Chandimal, he killed the aussies in australia, but he still cannot find the formula for success in SL. It requires a different skill set to do well in spinning wickets. I would have loved to put Bradman in a crumbling galle pitch against Murali to see how he will do. If modern players have minnows, greats of years gone by had few conditions to deal with and less variety in bowling to deal with. If Sanga is not a great, cricket as an international game has a serious problem.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (February 6, 2014, 5:15 GMT)

A fantastic player, but a poor analysis within the article which is misleading everyone. There are two critically important issues you've overlooked. Firstly, there's no mention that if you don't include his 22 innings against Bangladesh/Zimbabwe (whose test status is questionable), his average drops to 48.24, which is still very good, but not in the realm of all the greats. Obviously his average is highly inflated and it's completely unfair to all the other great batsmen who never got so many chances against poor-quality attacks in familiar conditions. Secondly, it's not fair to say his post-keeping stats are what counts. Whilst he was keeping, he had the opportunity to get used to batting in test cricket and improve. If we're going to use your 'split his career up' logic, we should be able to do that for other players with high workloads such as dropping Steve Waugh's first part of his career as an all-rounder and start talking about his average of 60+. Not your best analysis Andrew.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 4:55 GMT)

RagAaron, your spot on. Throughout history there have been weak opposition(either than the eng/aus days)

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 4:49 GMT)

"Why oh why do we have to have these constant references to runs not being worth much if they are scored against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe?"

Because Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and West Indies post 2000 cannot bowl. They have terrible attacks. Let's be clear, runs versus Bangladesh are almost worthless.

"Before those two it was Sri Lanka who were new to test cricket, before that New Zealand struggled for decades and if we go way back South Africa weren't too flash for a long time"

Not true. South Africa were deadly before being ostracized for political reasons. Sri Lanka was dangerous in the 1990s and had several world class bowlers.

"Sangakara is a legend but he's from Sri Lanka and I bet that counts against him for a lot of people - not that they'll admit it mind you."

I support New Zealand. I have no national bias. Sangga has always padded his stats vs terrible bowling and in Asia. Outside of such variables, he has not been an all time great.

Posted by Dr.Lakson on (February 6, 2014, 4:45 GMT)

I am also wondering why AFF needs to request the wider world take notice of Sanga. When ever he steps out to the field commentators around the world give due respect. I am not sure about the print media around the world! Among the batting greats from SL Aravinda and Mahela would be above Sanga with respect to skill and talent but what they did/do with their talent in terms of producing results Sanga would top both of them. Sanga is an inspiration and a role model for any young person with above average talent in any field to work hard to be counted among the best in the world!

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 4:44 GMT)

11000 or 12000 does not matter. The fact is Sanga is a great. Period. He deserves his place under the sun. He has been a great ambassador for cricket. He is also without any doubt Sri Lanka's greatest cricketer along with Murali. Hats off to the champ from an Indian fan.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 4:42 GMT)

Sangakkara is not an all time great. His double centuries tend to be versus minnows and in Asia. Beating up Bangladesh and Zimbabwe is not an achievement. Stats do not tell the whole story.

Sangakkara also has very few centuries outside of Asia. Let's be clear, the modern West Indies bowling attack is also poor, and from 2000 onwards they can be considered minnows as well. Today, runs mostly only counts against South Africa, England and Australia; the quality of bowling has declined.

Brian Lara, in comparison, played only four test matches against minnows (2 vs Zimbabwe and 2 vs Bangladesh) and tended to score classic innings versus dangerous attacks and away from home. He is an example of a great batsman who's stats are not inflated or padded. The modern batsman benefits from many factors which make appeals to statistics and snap judgements, not only flawed, but insulting to greater batsmen.

Posted by Meety on (February 6, 2014, 4:13 GMT)

Sangga is a champ. I was dubious about this article coming straight after a triple ton v Bangladesh, but I know that his raw stats deserve mention with the greats. He is probably my favorite non-ozzy cricketer.

Posted by Hasi21 on (February 6, 2014, 3:14 GMT)

Haters gonna hate... He is one of Greatest Batsman Ever...!!!

Posted by TATTUs on (February 6, 2014, 3:10 GMT)

Assessing Sangakkara in South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies and Zimbabwe [Thats overseas] would have made this analysis more complete. And if you add that most readers will come to a quick conclusion.

Personally he is a really good player. Arguably the best Sri Lankan batsman all round. But considering world over, with his performance worldwide and all round, he ranks among the very good ones rather than the great ones.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 2:14 GMT)

Weldon sanga!!! Hopefully he will play test cricket even after the 2015 world cup. Unfortunately sri lanka doesn't get much test matches these days. He can score more than 16000 if he able to play for another 40 test matches.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 2:13 GMT)

Leaving aside comparisons, let us focus on the most important attributes of a batsman that puts him in that elite category of all time greats. For me that would be career AVG, away & neutral venues AVG, 1st innings AVG and 2nd innings AVG (to prove that said batsman is brilliant at both end of the game), AVG in matches won. Please note that I am only talking Test cricket and talking about matches against the major teams which excludes performances against BD and ZIM. So here goes for Sanga -:

Career AVG - 53 Away & neutral venues AVG - 48 1st innings AVG - 53 with 14 hundreds 2nd innings AVG - 53 with 12 hundreds AVG in matches won against the major teams - 72 Number of Test 100's in matches won or drawn - 22 out of 26 have come in wins or draws and only 4 in losses.

The above confirms Sanga's standing as Sri Lanka's best ever in Tests and one of the top 5 of all time in the modern game in Tests as well.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 2:10 GMT)

Sanga is without a doubt a modern great and one of the top 5 batters of all time in the modern game. Along with the crucial and pertinent stats given by Andrew above that makes the unanimous case for Sanga as an all time great in the game, you have to also throw in THE most important stat which is his impact on Sri Lankan Test match wins against the major nations (Excluding BD & ZIM). Sanga's AVG of 72 in matches won by SL against the major teams (result qualification; 2,000 plus Test runs in Test wins against the major teams) is the 4th highest of all time behind Bradman, Inzi and Sobers. 22 of Sanga's 26 hundreds against the major teams have come in either SL wins (13) or draws (9) and just the 4 in SL losses. In other words when Sanga scores big Sri Lanka hardly ends up the losing side. True Sanga has not done himself justice in SA, ENG and IND but he is not alone because even Rahul Dravid India's wall & overseas champion AVGs only 29 in SA, 33 in SL and 41 in Australia.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 1:46 GMT)

no doubt sanga is legendary player and down to earth.. I am a very big fan of his technique and batting he is a complete package for his team.. I am sure he will break most of the test matches record as he is orthodox player..

Posted by Humdingers on (February 6, 2014, 1:43 GMT)

Take out those runs against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and for good measure runs outside the sub-continent and then let's start comparing against The Don, Lara, Sachin, Kallis, Ponting, Dravid etc. Until then he is a very very good player - but certainly not great. As a wicketkeeper/batsmen certainly one of the best.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 1:32 GMT)

I'm not sure what Andrew is campaigning for here.I haven't come across a comment on cricinfo in my life that stated that Sangakkara isn't a great player.There is no one in the cricketing world that disputes this fact.The numbers speak for themselves.Flat tracks,runs against Bangladesh/Zimbabwe,those statements have come up but none saying that he's a below other greats. I respect each and every one of the greats such as Lara,Tendulkar,Ponting,Kallis etc.As a Sri Lankan fan I respect Sanga as a great human being rather than as a cricketer but I would rather not belittle him by calling him inferior to others.Nor do that discourtesy to others such as the great SRT as many of my countryman have unwittingly done.

Posted by kasifdotinfo on (February 6, 2014, 1:04 GMT)

A fitting tribute to unquestionably one of cricket's all-time greats. When confronted with the pile of statistics laid out here, along with, perhaps, any highlight package showing the uniquely awesome sight of a supremely confident, textbook-perfect Kumar Sangakkara in full flow, it would seem impossible for the naysayer to argue against Sri Lanka's champion being placed alongside or even ahead of the world's most celebrated batsmen.

As for the apparent gaps in Sangakkara's incredible record...

He averages 61.79 away from home as a specialist batsman (4th overall; best since Barrington). Only 8 of 63 innings have been against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe.

He has played only 11 matches (all in short series) as a specialist batsman in India, England, and South Africa - hardly enough to draw any fair conclusions from. Yet he has scored centuries in each country.

He has a better overall average in wins (rather than wins and losses) than all but Sobers, Inzamam-ul-Haq, and Bradman.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 0:58 GMT)

It's true he is the fastest to 11000 runs, but what people don't realize is that this is not a surprise at all. He's also the fastest to 8000, 9000 and 10000 runs - and will be fastest to 12000 runs if he just maintains a 25+ avg from now on.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2014, 0:48 GMT)

Players like Lara and Richards are born genius and are born in centuries. However, Sangakara is surely one of the modern-day greats.

Posted by RogerC on (February 6, 2014, 0:42 GMT)

Statistics alone are not indicators of greatness. This is why Sangakkara is not put in the top bracket. In fact many cricket experts rate Aravinda De Silva and Mahela higher than Sanga.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (February 6, 2014, 0:34 GMT)

I love Sanga, he's been incredible for Sri Lanka, but despite his incredible career average, his stats need to be taken with a grain of salt. Sanga has played MORE innings against Bangladesh/Zimbabwe than he has against Australia! I think it's pretty obvious which team is more difficult to bat against. Sanga has played 122 matches. In his 16 innings against Bangladesh, he has cashed in at a Bradmanesque 90.71 (and 6 innings against Zimbabwe at 89!), yet in his 20 innings against Australia, he averages a barely passable 43.9 with just ONE century to his name home OR away. Contrast that with Australian batsmen who will be lucky to play Bangladesh or Zimbabwe in their career. With Clarke as the only current Aussie who has played a comparable amount of games, at 102 matches he has played just 2 of those against Bangladesh @25.5, NEVER played Zimbabwe and has played almost all of his games against the top tier of SA/England/India. Sanga's in the mix, but remains behind the other greats.

Posted by Rag-Aaron on (February 6, 2014, 0:24 GMT)

Why oh why do we have to have these constant references to runs not being worth much if they are scored against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe? There have always been weak teams to play against. Before those two it was Sri Lanka who were new to test cricket, before that New Zealand struggled for decades and if we go way back South Africa weren't too flash for a long time, I wonder how many easy runs Bradman got against South Africa? Maybe his record should be downgraded too.

Sangakara is a legend but he's from Sri Lanka and I bet that counts against him for a lot of people - not that they'll admit it mind you.

Posted by whocareswhowins on (February 5, 2014, 23:43 GMT)

Kumar Sangakkara IS one of the modern game's greats. There is no question about that. Along with Mahela Jayawardene, from the present team. A treat to watch, and a gentleman.

Posted by Selfishkar on (February 5, 2014, 23:10 GMT)

Sangakkara has won more man of the match awards in 120 tests than GOD of Cricket has achieved in 200 tests.

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (February 5, 2014, 23:06 GMT)

It is funny my psychic abilities are working overtime ...now let me see... I foresee people bad mouthing both Sachin Tendulkar and Kumar Sangakkara, maybe even the great Don will cop it from some, I can see comments about flat track bullies, I can see Bangladesh being put down as being weak, and some will belittle Pakistan. but I cannot see many praising all of the above, which is strange as the Don, Sachin and Kumar all have/had more Talent Style and class than most of you keyboard warriors/haters will ever have.

Posted by   on (February 5, 2014, 22:50 GMT)

Unbelievable stats Sanga will be the One of the greate if not the greatest ever, Love this guy as a Cricketer and as a down to earth Human being. well done and good luck for the years to come. God bless you sanga.

Posted by   on (February 5, 2014, 22:40 GMT)

Well done Andrew..69.55 average as specialist batsman over 120 innings is amazing. Not a single player in the history who played more than 100 innings had a average above 60.

Posted by   on (February 5, 2014, 22:39 GMT)

I knew he would be here the first time I saw him play. Total career runs do not mean a whole lot when it comes to the quality of the player. I got nothing against Sachin, but I think side by side Sanga is better. If Sanga played for 20+ years I am willing to bet he will easily beat Sachin's records.

Posted by KingOwl on (February 5, 2014, 22:09 GMT)

It's a great article, long over due in my view. But one thing to note is that Sanga has regularly been recognized internationally, if we count the number of top ICC awards he has won. I think an analysis of those awards is worthy as well, relative to his peers.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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