Kumar Sangakkara has said being relieved of the gloves in Tests was the "best thing" that happened to his career.
"I didn't like it when they stopped me keeping," Sangakkara said. "But the selection committee spoke to me and said: 'What we're trying to do is improve your batting and to get you scoring more runs for the team. We are asking you to do this. It will be better for the team and better for you.' At the time, I thought: 'That's not true. I can do both.' But when I look back on it now, that was the best thing to happen to me. It's great that they took that decision for me, without letting me take it. That has hugely influenced the runs that I scored, and the centuries I made."
Sangakkara had begun his Test career behind the stumps, as Romesh Kaluwitharana's replacement. Even though he had some success with the bat in the early years, averaging 46.90 in mid-2006, the Ashantha de Mel-led selection committee believed he would be more valuable to the side as a specialist batsman. Sangakkara had by then become Sri Lanka's regular No. 3 batsman, raising concerns that he would be too fatigued to excel at both roles.
A nine-year boom in his batting output has followed the decision to play him as a batsman only. In 84 Tests as a specialist batsman, Sangakkara has hit 9188 runs at an average of 68.05. That average is only second to Don Bradman's for non-wicketkeepers who have scored more than 1000 Test runs.
Sangakkara admitted he regrets not having won a World Cup after playing in two finals, but took particular pleasure from Sri Lanka's performances in major tournaments. Sri Lanka's inability to win Tests in Australia and India had also grated, but the team has generally fared better in England. They drew 1-1 in 2006, then defeated England 1-0 last year.
"I remember going to England with the team last year, and beating England 1-0 in that series was the best overseas tour I have been on," he said. "In that 2006 series when we drew, we also won the one-dayers 5-0.
"All the wins we have had, especially away from home, have been special. Beating Australia for the first time in a one-day series in 2010, the World T20 which we won it - all of these have been really standout moments for me. But also, once Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Chaminda Vaas, Aravinda de Silva all of these guys left, I'm happy to have been part of a set-up that produced cricketers like Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga, Upul Tharanga - and the one guy who has been outstanding and who is never spoken about - Rangana Herath."
Though his batting is often called attractive, Sangakkara said he does not consider himself a stylist. "I used to have these arguments with Thilan Samaraweera in the dressing room about who had had the best looking forward defensive shot in the Sri Lankan side. He always told me that I had the ugliest forward defensive shot he had ever seen in his life and Mahela Jayawardene and Marvan Attapattu had the nicest," Sangakkara said.
"They always say the left-handers were extremely graceful. I watched Brian Lara, then Upul Tharanga and Lahiru Thirmanne from the younger lot, and feel they are much more pleasant to look at. Whenever I play the cover drive, with the back knee bent and head back, I just say to myself: 'How can that be stylish?' But I'm glad with the amount if runs I've scored and how effective I've been."