Sangakkara's reign is South Africa's pain
Kumar Sangakkara will almost certainly need to expand an already teeming mantelpiece after winning three ICC awards, including the two most vaunted prizes for Test Cricketer and Cricketer of the Year, not two weeks after also taking home the three top trophies from SLC's awards night. It is fitting that he has dealt in threes, given that is his batting position. Or maybe the Water's Edge ballroom in Colombo that hosted both evenings is just a successful venue for him, much like the MCG was for Donald Bradman. How he pipped Sachin Tendulkar for the People's Choice Award, voted for by the public, was the enigma of the evening. Perhaps Kanye West could have quietly asked around. Tendulkar is one of the most popular cricketers of all time.
Michael Slater suited up alongside UK TV presenter Sarah-Jane Mee to host the evening, and though the jokes could have, at times, used a little more commitment, they kept the show moving at a brisk enough pace to keep the audience entertained. The teams were all out in force from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and after all the commotion over Saeed Ajmal's omission from all the awards nominees lists, even Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez was in attendance along with Asad Shafiq, Imran Nazir, and several Pakistan support staff. When asked whom he thought would win the evening's big prize, coach Dav Whatmore resisted stirring the pot.
Daniel Vettori was among the first on stage, becoming the first individual recipient of the Spirit of Cricket Award, which had previously been handed out to the team who played the game in the best spirit. This 'spirit' is one of the fuzziest concepts in the game and Vettori tried valiantly to explain what it meant. "Going out on the field with the general mindset to play the game in the right way and always in the right frame of mind," he said. Well, then, that disambiguates it right up.
Kumar Dharmasena became Umpire of the Year, almost foreshadowing the haul that was to follow for the other Kumar, but when Sangakkara's montage for Test player of the year came up on the screen, it seemed as if the ICC were intent on sabotaging him. Fellow nominees Hashim Amla, Vernon Philander and Michael Clarke were depicted in their moments of success - a raised bat, at cracking stroke or a wicket celebration. All Sangakkara got was a streaky edge past slip. "I don't think he would have wanted to see that," Philander said not-so-quietly, over a round of chuckles.
The biggest disappointments of the evening were for South Africa, who despite claiming the No.1 ranking in all three forms of the game in an outstanding year, could only muster an award between them - and that only for Twenty20. Philander's 56 wickets at an average of 16.57 was overlooked, with even Sangakkara sheepishly admitting that Philander had dismissed him twice in South Africa. Hashim Amla meanwhile, scored at a significantly superior average to Sangakkara in both Tests and ODis in the period considered, even if he could not match Sangakkara's volume of runs, having played fewer matches. When the final award for Cricketer of the Year was announced, the South Africa table was a wall of blank stares, save for Philander who raised his eyebrows, partly in astonishment, but mainly in resignation. Having achieved so much in twelve months as a team, South Africa might have justifiably expected recognition for the individuals who were instrumental to their success.
It was the hometown hero though, who emerged the night's big winner. His own father may chide him with the line "I don't know how you are playing for your country when you bat like a donkey," but 2901 runs in Tests and ODIs was substantial enough to sway the judges.
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka