Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara
October 27, 1977, Matale
Left hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
As soon as he broke into the side at the age of 22, while a law student, it was apparent that Kumar Sangakkara was destined for more than just batting stardom. The left-handers that had preceded him, like Arjuna Ranatunga and Asanka Gurusinha, had been pugnacious battlers but Sangakkara was cut from more graceful cloth, easing into strokes with the elegance often associated withthose that play with the 'other' hand. The cut and the pull came naturally to him and with growing confidence, he became a more assured front-foot player as well.
Ranatunga had already exploded the myth of the Sri Lankans being meek men who could be bullied, but Sangakkara has refined the belligerence, combining a suave exterior with cutting asides and sharp sledges from behind the stumps. Initially, his glovework wasn't for the purists, but such was his batting ability that there was no question of displacing him from the XI.
As a batsman, he has matured steadily, and the appetite for runs was best illustrated at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo in 2006, when he and Mahela Jayawardene, captain and close friend, added 624 against a South African attack boasting Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini. Sangakkara contributed 287 and did his burgeoning reputation no harm a year later when he went to Hobart and scored a dazzling 192 in a close defeat. By then, he already had a half-century in a World Cup final to his name, and long before Jayawardene relinquished the captaincy, it was understood that Sangakkara would be the anointed one.
He has been far less relentless in the one-day arena, often throwing his wicket away when well set, but his leadership qualities have made him a sought-after signing in the Indian Premier League. With the captain's burden on his shoulders, he no longer keeps in Test matches, but the smart-alec remarks from behind the stumps are a common feature of every game that Sri Lanka plays in coloured clothes.
Although leadership drew the best from him as a batsman, he remains a voracious no. 3 in all forms despite having relinquished the reins in 2011. Sangakkara won the top prize at 2012's ICC awards, in addition to the award for Test Cricketer of the Year and the People's Choice award for the second year running. Later that year he confirmed himself among batting's modern greats, by becoming the equal fastest man to 10,000 Test runs alongside Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, with the biggest Test crowd Sri Lanka had ever played for in audience, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Dileep Premachandran and ESPNcricinfo staff
Batting & Fielding