Kumar Sangakkara: Best Test Batsman in the World

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Dr Muralidaran Ramesh Somasunderam pays tribute to the inspirational Kumar Sangakarra who sits on the top of the ICC Test Batsman Ratings…

As a fellow Sri Lankan, it is both a privilege and an honour that Kumar Sangakkara is presently ranked the best batsman in Test Match cricket.

I believe Sangakkara has all the strokes both on the front and on the back foot, including the vertical and horizontal bat strokes. He is a player nice on the eye who embodies his inner mind, temperament, application and concentration, including determination, which are essential necessities and requirements, with quality technique, and hard work to be the best batsman, especially in Test Match cricket, which is the litmus test of the game.

Sangakkara is like great left hand batsmen before and during his time, such as Sir Garfield Sobers, Brain Lara, David Gower and Neil Harvey, possessing a positive and aggressive batting style capable of winning matches. Yet Sangakkara also has the ability and temperament to negate his aggression, and play within himself, if the team requires that, based on the circumstances and situation of a game. This I believe makes him special and a rare commodity at the pivotal position of number three, where a batsman of quality should be able to meet both aspects and requirements, depending on the circumstance and situation of a game.

In this regard, Sangakkara is different than Sir Garfield Sobers, who was the greatest aggressive left handed batsman in world cricket, alongside Brian Lara in the modern day game. Don’t get me wrong, Sir Garfield Sobers was the greatest cricketer in the history of the game, as a genuine all-rounder of true class and repute in regard to all facets of cricket, not just batting.

The best number three batsmen in world cricket based on the modern day game that could attack and defend was Dilip Vensakar of India, who had this unique ability to be aggressive and to defend when needed, depending on the circumstance and situation of a game. He also was elegant and a stylish right handed batsman, which was pleasing and enjoyable to the eye.

In my view, Sangakkara is a great player, especially in regard to the square / cover drive, and his nature to dominate a bowling attack from start to finish,  which is an asset to any team whom he plays for or represents. The late Sir Everton Weeks and Ritchie Richardson were also great exponents of the square / cover drive, including the late Sir Frank Worrall of the West Indies, who sat on one knee, and produced a picture perfect square / cover drive against Alan Davidson in the 1960 – 1961 Test Match series against the Australians at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which was an absolutely perfect stoke technically speaking.

Sangakkara is the best Test Match batsman in the world at the moment, because no bowler in world cricket can curtail him, especially in regard to his stroke play all-around the wicket. But to me, his square of the wicket play between cover point and extra cover is the best I have seen from a left hander in modern day cricket, because he waits for the ball to come to him, and his timing and placement are a feature, especially at the point of contact, with the square drive, where  a batsman has to open the face of the bat at the point of contact, and control the stroke by keeping the ball down, even though a player of the calibre such as Sanath Jayasuriya opened the face of the bat and lofted the ball, and on many occasions for six runs, which is extremely rare indeed.

This not only highlighted his uniqueness, but his class as a batsman of quality, who was a genuine match winner on his day in both Test Match cricket and One Day cricket.

I was brought up in the generation where I admired players such as Sidath Wettimuny, Ranjan Madugalle, and Roy Dias and Aravinda d Silva.

The greatest innings in terms of technical perfection was the 190 odd runs Sidath Wettimuny scored in the 1984 Test Match at Lords, when he played every stoke for its exact requirement, technically correctly, and he also built his innings based on total concentration, dedication, and application, but like Sangakkara, the square of the wicket stokes were a feature during his innings, with his driving and square cutting being exemplary.

Nevertheless to me the player who showed that as a Sri Lankan he had ability to be a true match winner on his day, and in the process to be prepared to attack a bowler from start to finish was Aravinda de Silva, who was a delight to watch, as he did not curtail himself, but was a champion, who dominated bowlers in both Test Match, and One Day cricket.

A precursor to the likes of Sangakkara and Jayawardene

Aravinda also played the vertical and horizontal bat strokes regularly with great success, especially the pull stroke in front of square, and was a strong driver of the ball down the ground, including the drive and cut stroke. Therefore he was a complete player, with fine onside flicks off his toes and glances, and this made it very difficult to curtail him from scoring runs quickly in a dominate manner and fashion.

He also charged at fast bowlers, and the lofted drive, which he played against Craig McDermott at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the One Day International in 1984, is a very good example of this rare class and ability. This was an extraordinary stroke by a very special player indeed. To me, he was the advocate for players of the calibre, such as Kumar Sangakkara, and Mahela Jayawardene who do not allow opposition bowlers to curtail them or dictate terms to them, when they are at the crease batting. But, they set the pattern of play in terms of the pace, and momentum, which is great for the game and to visually watch for spectators at the ground, and for television audiences, who get full entertainment and enjoyment, which is what the game of cricket is about, like any sport, at the end of the day.

Kumar Sangakkara is also very eloquent in the English when he gives press conferences, and interviews, and is a fine captain, who will get better both tactically, and astutely, with more experience and exposure, by captaining the Sri Lankan national cricket team in both Test Match and One Day cricket.

I wish to conclude by mentioning that Sangakkara is a source of inspiration to many young batsmen in world cricket, especially up and coming batsmen in Sri Lanka in first class cricket, and in international cricket, and to young players to have a positive mindset, based on purpose, drive, dedication, application and determination.

I wish Sangakkara personally and the Sri Lankan team the very best in their future endeavours, especially in Test Match cricket, which is the pinnacle of the game, and congratulate his magnificent effort of becoming the number one batsman in Test Match cricket at present.

In my view, you are a true source of inspiration to the nation, and a genuine champion whom I hope, and wish, will continue to bring joy to many cricket enthusiasts around the world, including all Sri Lankans in years to come.

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