Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, SSC, 2nd day July 27, 2010

Batsman Sangakkara remains a stylist

In either liking or hating the captain, the statesman, the keeper with the irritating shouts, we tend to forget the reason why we liked Sangakkara in the first place

For the last year or so we have known the man who repeatedly questions cricket's lopsided scheduling. The man who has perhaps strived to make Australia out of Sri Lanka, and perhaps cutting down on some of the Sri Lankan flair. The man who complains about the inconsistent use of Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS). The man who has had to make bold decisions regarding Sanath Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas. The man who keeps saying Ajantha Mendis is not over, and answering questions about life after Murali and Vaas. The man who has become insufferable with his incessant and excessive appealing from behind the stumps, for LBWs that don't exist. The man who made Tillakaratne Dilshan keep wicket in Tests when Prasanna Jayawardene was injured. Somewhere in all that, we tend to forget Kumar Sangakkara the batsman.

In either liking or hating the captain, the statesman, the keeper with the irritating shouts, we tend to forget the reason why we liked Sangakkara in the first place. His batting has all that grace, style, and also the aggression. The drives still flow beautifully all through the cover field, the whip-flick between mid-on and midwicket that he plays even as he is moving across the stumps is still a joy to watch, the sweeps to all parts of leg side still negate the spinners.

Silently, as a captain, Sangakkara has scored five centuries in 10 Tests, three of them in his last three games against India, the latest being his seventh double-century, putting him behind only Don Bradman and Brian Lara on that count.

When he came in to bat on Monday, on his beloved SSC pitch and against an average attack, a century was there to be taken. Still, how you got there, and how far you took it beyond 100 mattered too. This innings had all the hallmarks of a Sangakkara special. The intent was clear from the first over of his innings: when Pragyan Ojha was slightly short, he was cut away; when he flighted he was lofted over mid-on. From thereon until he was caught by an alert Rahul Dravid - and it's a task to stay alert after you have spent one-and-a-half days without anything remotely resembling an edge - Sangakkara owned the attack.

Even with the deep point in place, India struggled to keep Sangakkara quiet. Though Tharanga Paranavitana was 34 when Sangakkara came out, it wasn't a surprise that he was overtaken. No scoring opportunity was missed. There weren't shots that stood out for audacity, but there weren't any that stood out for being inelegant either. Even as Mahela Jayawardene struggled in the final hour on the first day, Sangakkara kept getting the runs, scoring 34 off 58 in that period.

How he played on the second day, though, was going to determine how well Sri Lanka could time their declaration. The first two balls of the day brought clear indications. Two of his favourite shots got him boundaries: the drive wide of mid-off, and then the whip-flick through midwicket. Five overs later, the same bowler, Abhimanyu Mithun, was hit for three consecutive boundaries. After a relatively quiet spell, he showed Ojha the complete range of sweep shots in one over: slog-sweeps to cow corner and midwicket, and then two regulation ones to square leg and backward square leg. That over took him from 183 to 199.

The platform was set up again, the bowlers had been deflated again, and Jayawardene did the rest. When Sangakkara got out, though, the reaction was of acute dissatisfaction. The double-hundred wasn't nearly enough. The reaction was of a man who has scored seven of them, a man who wants more.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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