Sri Lanka has produced many great cricketers who guided the island to many famous victories, including the 1996 World Cup.
Aravinda de Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are among the greats in batting. On the bowling side, ODIs’ highest wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan and pace sensation Lasith Malinga also belong to Sri Lanka.
But left-hand batsman Kumar Sangakkara beat all the other batsmen during the ongoing World Cup when against Australia he became the first Sri Lankan and the only batsman after India’s Sachin Tendulkar to pass 14,000 runs in ODIs.
In the last group match against Scotland, Sangakkara achieved another milestone with 124 runs as he became the first player to score four successive ODI centuries. His 124 against Scotland in Hobart followed scores of 105 not out against Bangladesh, 117 not out against England and 104 against Australia. This fourth century took Sangakkara’s tally to 25; he now has the most number of centuries for Sri Lanka after Jayasuriya’s 28.
Sangakkara is now behind only Tendulkar (49), Ricky Pointing (30) and Jayasuriya (28) on the list of most hundreds in ODIs.
After the completion of World Cup qualifying round, Sangakkara has 14,189 runs in 403 matches, including 25 centuries and 93 fifties, scored at an average of 41.97. Tendulkar is the leading run scorer with 18,426 runs in 463 ODIs.
Sangakkara is the fifth highest run scorer in Test cricket. He has scored 12,203 runs in 130 Test matches and is behind only Tendulkar, Ponting, Jack Kallis and Rahul Dravid. He has an average of 58.66 in Tests with 38 centuries and 51 half-centuries.
In 2011, he was named the ODI Cricketer of the Year at the ICC awards ceremony.
In 2012, he was honoured as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year.
“My father has been coaching me day in, day out,” Sangakkara said recently. “But he’s always told me: ‘Don’t be afraid of change.’ I think that’s the best thing I’ve been told, and that’s what I’ve been doing throughout my career — change when change was required. I tried to improve, and it’s been the background to my success.”
Sangakkara is retiring from ODIs at the end of this tournament.
He will also quit Test cricket after the three-match series against India in August 2015.
He retired from Twenty20 cricket after Sri Lanka won the World T20 in 2014.
“You can talk all you like about Virat Kohli, A B de Villiers or Glenn Maxwell — and all of them have played superbly in this tournament — but Sanga is the man all other sides will fear most of all,” Muralitharan said of him in his column for the ICC website after his third consecutive hundred in this World Cup.
After Sangakkara’s retirement Sri Lanka will feel his absence at No 3 position.
In 2006, during the first Test against South Africa at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo, Sangakkara with then skipper Mahela Jayawardene established a world record partnership of 624 runs for the third wicket. Jayawardene and Sangakkara scored 374 and 287, respectively. It was the highest score for any wicket partnership ever. The previous 576-run record was set by compatriots Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama against India at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo in 1997.
They also surpassed the all time first-class partnership record for any wicket set by Indians Vijay Hazare and Gul Mohammed (577) in 1946-47 for the fourth wicket in the final of the Ranji Trophy. The pair stayed at the wicket almost two days and played 160.3 overs before Sangakkara was out on 287.