Kumar Sangakkara confirmed he will retire from international cricket after the second Test of Sri Lanka's forthcoming series against India, calling time on one of the most successful careers in modern cricket. Sangakkara will not play the third Test in the ongoing series against Pakistan, choosing instead to play for county side Surrey, before returning to Sri Lanka ahead of the first Test against India.
"I have decided to call it a day on my international career during the second Test of the Indian series," Sangakkara said after stumps on day three of the second Test in Colombo. "This was the commitment I had made with the previous selection committee. I had originally planned to retire after the World Cup, but following discussions with the previous selectors, I gave the commitment that I will be available for these two series.
"At the same time I said that I would be unable to play six Test matches, but I could do four, and if that was okay, and I would give 100 percent of my commitment to these four Tests. Once they said this was okay, I decided that I would extend my career."
Sangakkara had given thought to playing only the first Test against India following a change of proposed dates for that tour, but has since chosen to honour his commitment to the previous selectors. There had been calls, from within Sri Lanka's sporting and political establishments, for him to extend his career by another year, but he has declined those requests.
However, a hitch has arisen in the latest schedule for the India series, with Sri Lanka's general elections now scheduled for August 17 - the day before the first Test of that series is set to begin. Sangakkara hoped the India series "wouldn't be postponed again", but with the board reluctant to begin a high-profile series so soon after the elections, it now appears likely that the Galle Test will not begin on August 18, as presently proposed. A postponement of several days is likely.
There is also the matter of the venue of the second Test. The tentative schedule has it slated for Colombo, but there are suggestions it would be more fitting if Sangakkara retires in his home town of Kandy. Ideally, he would play his final match at Asgiriya, where he grew up playing school cricket for Trinity College, but this is unlikely as the ground's facilities are now considered inadequate to host international cricket. Pallekele would be a likelier option, but SLC has not committed to switching venues for the occasion.
"I am actually not sure where the venues are," Sangakkara said. "I would love to choose where I am going to end, but that's not going to be possible. I have to play wherever the matches are.
"I watched Muttiah Muralitharan play his last Test Match in Galle. Murali is from Kandy and we both grew up there. Kandy would have loved to say goodbye to Murali. I have had so much good fortune in my career, and I can't ask for everything. Sometimes you have to just do the best you can with what's there. If I don't get a chance to play my last Test in Kandy so be it. I will be disappointed, but that can't be helped.
"Asgiriya would have been perfect. I remember when Test cricket went away from Asgiriya, I was disappointed as a player. But I understand that facilities and surface and all these things matter. It's not going to be at Asgiriya."
Sangakkara said his decision to stagger his last four Tests over two three-match series had more to do with his personal desire to play only a few Tests beyond the World Cup, than with his contract with Surrey. "My request to play two Tests in each series is nothing to do with the Surrey commitment. Any county understands that your country commitment comes first. Even if I go now and say, 'Listen, I am not coming. I want to play for Sri Lanka,' there are no issues. I have signed a two-year contract with leeway to come and go whenever the national duty comes."
Sangakkara is Sri Lanka's most successful Test batsman, having hit 12,305 runs over 132 matches. He is fifth on the all-time run-scorers list, and his present average of 58.31 is the second-highest for any batsman with more than 7000 runs. In terms of number of innings, he was also the quickest batsman to 8000, 9000, 10,000 (equal with Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara), 11,000 and 12,000 runs. He has 38 hundreds and 11 double-centuries - one behind Don Bradman's record of 12.