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A run-machine called Sangakkara

He has been in awesome form against Bangladesh lately, but a stiffer challenge awaits later this year

S Rajesh

February 28, 2014

Comments: 86 | Text size: A | A

Kumar Sangakkara punches the ball through the off side on his way to 319, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 2nd day, February 5, 2014
In the last 12 months, Kumar Sangakkara has scored 1235 runs from 13 innings in all international cricket against Bangladesh, including 940 from seven innings in Tests © AFP
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Players/Officials: Kumar Sangakkara | AB de Villiers
Teams: Sri Lanka

Quiz question: have a look at this sequence of numbers and identify it - 142, 105, 139, 55, 75, 319, 105.

For anyone who has followed international cricket over the last 12 months, that's a pretty easy one - that's the sequence of scores that Kumar Sangakkara has racked up in Tests against Bangladesh since March 2013. Add up those numbers, and the total reads 940 runs from seven innings, at an average of 134.28, with five hundreds and two fifties. As if that wasn't enough, he also went ahead and plundered 247 ODI runs at a run a ball in four innings against them during this period. Bring in the Twenty20 international runs as well, and it all adds up to a pretty impressive 1235 runs for him from 13 international innings against Bangladesh since March 2013 - an average of 95 runs per innings, and 103 runs per month. The next best aggregate during this period is Dinesh Chandimal's 504.

All those runs have added healthy amounts to Sangakkara's overall international aggregate. In Tests, he has scored 1816 runs from 15 Tests against Bangladesh, 670 more than the second highest. (The top three, incidentally, are all from Sri Lanka, and they are also the only ones to score 1000-plus against Bangladesh in Tests.) In all international cricket, Sangakkara's tally against Bangladesh is 2983 from 50 innings, 1229 more than the next highest.

It's obviously a flaw of the cricketing calendar that Bangladesh tend to play some teams more than others. Among the top sides, Sri Lanka is the one team Bangladesh have played more than any other: they've played each other 16 times in Tests, and 56 times in all international matches; Bangladesh v Australia, on the other hand, has happened only four times in Tests, and 25 times in all international matches. Sri Lankan players have benefited, and Sangakkara more than most, for he has consistently converted his starts and scored centuries against them, as reflected in his stats from the last 12 months.

Sangakkara has also scored well when he has played Zimbabwe, though that hasn't happened as often - he has 536 runs from five Tests, at an average of 89.33. Overall 21% of his Test runs have been scored against these two teams. Sangakkara has obviously scored heavily against other teams too, but this percentage is unusually high when compared to batsmen from other teams. Graeme Smith, for example, has scored less than 10% of his runs against those two teams. Six of the of the top 12 run-getters against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are from Sri Lanka, and most of them have scored a very high percentage of their total runs against them.

Top run-getters in Tests v B'desh and Zim since 2000
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s Tot runs* Percentage*
Kumar Sangakkara 20 2352 94.08 9/ 8 11,151 21.09
Sachin Tendulkar 13 1635 116.78 8/ 2 10,080 16.22
Mahela Jayawardene 18 1450 76.31 6/ 4 10,386 13.96
Rahul Dravid 15 1377 86.06 5/ 6 10,590 13.00
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 16 1020 60.00 4/ 2 8985 11.35
Tillakaratne Dilshan 13 1018 67.86 4/ 4 5283 19.27
Chris Gayle 14 933 49.10 3/ 3 6933 13.46
Younis Khan 10 929 77.41 3/ 3 7399 12.56
Graeme Smith 10 905 82.27 4/ 1 9257 9.78
Sanath Jayasuriya 10 878 79.81 3/ 3 4222 20.79
Thilan Samaraweera 13 854 71.16 2/ 7 5462 15.63
Marvan Atapattu 9 853 94.77 4/ 1 4055 21.03
* All runs scored since 2000 only

Unlike some of the other Sri Lankan batsmen, though, Sangakkara has gained respect and recognition from opposition bowlers across the world for his ability to play and score runs in different conditions. Splitting his career into three parts, it's clear that the last ten years have been phenomenally prolific - he has averaged 62 during this period, with plenty of runs at home against all opposition, and plenty of runs against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. He hasn't had as much success in South Africa and England, but his record in Australia compares favourably with the best: six 50-plus scores in ten innings, and an average of 60.33.

However, Sri Lanka have always struggled to get enough Test matches outside the subcontinent, which spoils the chances for a batsman like Sangakkara to enhance his stature as a truly great, all-weather batsman. Over a career that has already stretched more than 13 years, he has played six Tests in Bangladesh, but only five in Australia.

Kumar Sangakkara's Test career
  Overall At home v B'desh & Zim In Aus, SA, Eng
Period Tests Average Tests Ave Tests Average Tests Average
Till Dec 2003 33 46.65 22 46.73 5 64.00 8 33.13
2004-2008 44 60.57 22 71.46 10 96.90 6 51.83
Jan 2009 onwards 45 63.31 23 69.97 5 111.00 8 34.40
Career 122 58.07 67 63.27 20 94.08 22 38.92

As mentioned earlier, Sangakkara has averaged 62 over the last ten years, which is incredible considering the period over which he has maintained those high standards. Excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe during this period, Sangakkara's average drops to a still-impressive 55.62, next only to Jacques Kallis and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Highest averages for batsmen since Jan 2004 (Qual: 5000 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Kumar Sangakkara 89 8865 61.99 31/ 32
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 83 6742 59.14 20/ 33
Jacques Kallis 93 8136 58.95 32/ 32
Younis Khan 61 5719 57.76 18/ 19
AB de Villiers 91 7111 52.28 19/ 35
Sachin Tendulkar 90 6957 51.91 20/ 32
Hashim Amla 75 6135 51.55 21/ 27
Michael Hussey 79 6235 51.52 19/ 29
Mahela Jayawardene 89 7442 50.97 23/ 27
Michael Clarke 104 8079 50.81 26/ 27

When talk of the greatest current batsmen crops up, Sangakkara is usually in the mix, along with a few others, prominent among them being AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Michael Clarke and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. All of them feature prominently in the table below, which lists the batsmen with the highest averages against all teams, with a 2500-run cut-off. Sangakkara is second in the list, next only to AB de Villiers, who has averaged 65.19 during this period.

Highest averages for Test batsmen since Jan 2009 (Qual: 2500 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
AB de Villiers 43 3977 65.19 12/ 20
Kumar Sangakkara 45 4685 63.31 18/ 18
Hashim Amla 42 3932 60.49 15/ 16
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 39 3016 59.13 9/ 12
Jacques Kallis 39 3342 56.64 15/ 8
Younis Khan 31 2583 56.15 8/ 8
Thilan Samaraweera 35 2758 53.03 7/ 13
Michael Clarke 61 5195 52.47 17/ 15
Rahul Dravid 33 2779 52.43 10/ 10
Sachin Tendulkar 44 3492 52.11 10/ 17

Unlike Sangakkara, though, de Villiers hasn't played a whole lot against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and hasn't done particularly well against them either. He has played only six Tests against them - all before 2009 - and scored 214 runs at an average of 35.67. That means his average in the last five years excluding Tests against these two teams remains 65.19, from 43 Tests, while Sangakkara's drops to 56.70, which is still outstanding. During these last five years, Sangakkara scored 999 runs from five Tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, again the highest by far. (In his case, all five Tests were against Bangladesh.)

Best Test batsmen since Jan 2009, excl. B'desh and Zim (Qual: 2000 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
AB de Villiers 43 3977 65.19 12/ 20
Hashim Amla 42 3932 60.49 15/ 16
Kumar Sangakkara 40 3686 56.70 13/ 15
Jacques Kallis 39 3342 56.64 15/ 8
Thilan Samaraweera 34 2662 53.24 7/ 12
Michael Clarke 61 5195 52.47 17/ 15
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 33 2402 52.21 6/ 11

It's clear that Sangakkara and de Villiers are among the top batsmen going around today, but a break-up of the numbers indicate de Villiers has been more consistent so far in terms of stats in different countries. His career summary shows he averages more than 43 in every country where he has played at least three Tests; in Asia he averages 65.09, and he does better away than at home.

Sangakkara, though, has a few areas he'll want to improve on. In nine Tests in England, he averages 30.58; in eight matches in South Africa, he average 35.75. Surprisingly, he hasn't been prolific in India either, averaging 36.50 from ten Tests. (Click here for his complete career summary.)

An overall average of 38.92 in Australia, England and South Africa is respectable, but Sangakkara will want it to go beyond 40, or even 45, like some of the top batsmen from the subcontinent. Sachin Tendulkar averaged 51.64 in these three countries, Rahul Dravid 45.88.

In three previous tours to England, Sangakkara never managed to average 40 in a series - his highest was 38.50, in 2006. Now in the form of his life, the tour to England later this year presents an excellent opportunity for him to set the numbers right.

Subcontinent batsmen in Aus, Eng and SA
  Career Since 2009
Batsman Tests Average 100s/ 50s Tests Average 100s/ 50s
Sachin Tendulkar 52 51.64 15/ 18 11 44.30 2/ 4
Rahul Dravid 40 45.88 8/ 12 11 38.75 3/ 1
VVS Laxman 36 40.47 4/ 13 11 25.38 0/ 4
Virender Sehwag 25 35.97 4/ 7 9 21.27 0/ 3
Inzamam-ul-Haq 29 35.78 3/ 11 - - -
Mohammad Yousuf 22 38.37 4/ 6 5 27.70 0/ 2
Saeed Anwar 12 41.04 3/ 5 - - -
Younis Khan 16 40.60 2/ 6 3 30.67 1/ 0
Kumar Sangakkara 22 38.92 3/ 10 8 34.40 2/ 2
Mahela Jayawardene 25 31.25 3/ 5 9 22.27 0/ 2
Tillakaratne Dilshan 15 35.00 2/ 4 8 40.46 2/ 2
Thilan Samaraweera 14 30.92 2/ 3 9 41.33 2/ 2

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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Posted by   on (March 5, 2014, 17:40 GMT)

When a bats man scores 300+ runs it doesn't matter if it was a 5 year old that bowled to him. To Score 300+ is an achievement. This is the same garbage people said when Sanath Jayasooriya scored the fastest 100 and 50 they claimed that the ground was too small. Yet when Sri Lanka was not a strong team all these so called experts scored big scores and took 10 wicket hauls and no one said it was against a week Sri Lankan side and disregard them. ICC didn't give test Status to Bangladesh because they felt the were week, but because they knew that Bangladesh passed their tried and tested screening system. The same system that Sri Lannka had to go through to win test status. So to now state that Bangladesh is a weaker team is like ICC questioning it's own screening system.

Posted by SLSup on (March 5, 2014, 4:01 GMT)

It is not fair to assume S Rajesh is negating Sangakkara's record by not including NZ in the last Table. The reason he left NZ out is because of the very reason some of you think he should have included NZ: Sanga has a better record in NZ than in ENG/SA and when playing AUS in SL. Rajesh's point is to shore up two things: that Sanga is a Run Machine and that he needs to improve his stats in ENG/SA and at home against AUS. Any reasonable person must agree.

As to ref that Bradman is not great cos he only played against ENG (a weak ENG according to some of you) - this is not correct either. Bradman was one of thousands who played the same ENG attack during the Bradman years. Bradman scored more cos Bradman SCORED MORE! Just as Sanga & Mahela both played 27 innings each against BNG & ZIM but Sanga scored 900 runs more. SO you compare how individual players did against a common opposition compared to other players. THAT is why it is impossible to ignore Sangakkara's record : )

Posted by cricaddict11 on (March 4, 2014, 18:41 GMT)

I like this commet

" Posted by johnathonjosephs on (February 28, 2014, 17:24 GMT) Stormy16 has a good point. Amla and AB never had to face the 2 best bowlers of our generation: Steyn and Philander. I remember Sangakkara toured South Africa at a time when Philander was in that scary form and Steyn was also in deadly form. He scored an amazing 100 in the 2nd test that gave Sri Lanka their first win (Samaraweera also deserves a mention as he was good throughout the entire series). Also, it's ironic that when you take away Bangladesh/Zimbabwe stats, it hurts one player (Sangakkara) and benefits another player (AB). The England that Don Bradman played against (the ONLY opposition he played against) was not a very good team back in the day and Bradman averaged 99.9 against them... Should we discredit Bradman simply because England was a horrible team in the day?"

Posted by cricaddict11 on (March 4, 2014, 18:28 GMT)

@ Deepak260595 - Thank you for your thoughts. i thikn that you are a good Indian fan. But one thing should be said that Sanga's in AUS avg is better than Tendulkar and it is much higher around 62.

Posted by   on (March 3, 2014, 15:50 GMT)

Why is New Zealand excluded in the analysis? Because Sanga has played brilliantly in New Zealand where all Indian batsman struggled?

Posted by   on (March 3, 2014, 15:41 GMT)

Sangakkara can score runs on any pitch, against any type of bowler. The only regret is Sri Lanka do not get many tests in Aus and SA. But based on the limited chances he has got in SA,Aus,Eng and NZ Sanga has proven his class. Ponting described the 194 at Hobart as the best innings he has seen by an outsider in Australia. It is disappointing this article trying to disregard Sanga's greatness. Even taking runs against Ban and Zim, Sanga still averages above 50. And did any Indian watch the great match winning 100 against India? That is Class

Posted by SLSup on (March 3, 2014, 4:51 GMT)

Response to look-ma-i-am-indian: Ok, it's time to come to Daddy! What amusing analysis from you son! So leave Sanga out cos he didn't play Murali. Leave Ponting out cos he didn't play Warne. Leave Amla and AB out since they didn't play Steyn. Leave Tendulkar out since he didn't play Kumble. Lara doesn't count since he didn't play Ambrose or Walsh. What can I say? What can ANYONE say? Wisdom Of The Ages! Okay, now go write a book son.

Posted by look-ma-i-am-indian on (March 3, 2014, 4:08 GMT)

wrong to compare ordinary batsman sangakkara with the other greats. For instance muralitharan is the highest wicket taker in world. How many centuries has greats like kallis, Sachin, Viru, Rahul made against Murali? Sachin alone has made 9, Viru also made 200's. But how many 100's have sangakkara made against murali? NONE.

Posted by LakmalPhysics on (March 3, 2014, 3:50 GMT)

How Rajesh omit New Zealand from his analysis? Sanga has a beeter record in New Zealand.

Posted by SLSup on (March 2, 2014, 18:08 GMT)

Response to pull_shot: You miscued the pull! The only way Sachin compared better to Sanga is when you consider SA/ENG alone or Sanga's HOME records against Aussies. Cos he has a better record than Sachin IN Australia. THIS is what the last table in this article and a lot of other such articles show. But that is TOO REAL for those used to fantasies to deal with. Truth hurts those who oppose it while it is liberating to those who seek it. Why? Cos for those who seek truth only the TRUTH MATTERS.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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