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Kumar Sangakkara - The Best At Keeping And Scoring

By Orin Davidson
It is probably a blessing in disguise Kumar Sangakarra was not born in an earlier era or that Sri Lanka did not start playing Test cricket before 1982.

Kumar Sangakkara

In those days a player of his class would’ve been a specialist batsman due to restriction of wicketkeepers being forced to focus strictly on keeping.

And because Sangakarra is so good with the bat no one would’ve though of him performing in any other capacity.

But since the evolution of the wicketkeeper batsman classification in the last few decades, Sangakarra was allowed to flourish in both capacities, and now he is poised to make Sri Lanka the owner of the title of another world number player, in arguably the toughest category of all.

In reaching the peak of his batting powers , evidenced by his continuing earth shattering six-century run in eight tests, it is easy to debate whether he is better than the legendary Adam Gilchrist for the title as world’s number one wicketkeeper batsman.

Before this year, Gilchrist was the clear holder of that title, but it would be difficult for that argument to wash now, given the sensational displays of the man from Kandy, in rural Sri Lanka.

Both and left handers, both epitomize the exciting prototype of the modern day batsman where aggression is a natural first priority and both have great hands behind the stumps.

By the time he broke into the consciousness of the cricket world , Gilchrist became the most exciting wicketkeeper batsman the sport in both forms had ever seen.

And even in his 36th year he is not about to tone down in any shape or form.

Who can forget his mind blowing 57-ball Test century which fell short of the great Vivian Richards’ world record by one ball.

That was only one year ago.

Five months later Gilchrist plundered another epic that will remain in the memory forever.

His 141 match winning innings that sunk Sri Lanka and won Australia their fourth World Cup final in April, was as exhilarating as any before. Probably only Clive Lloyd’s match winner in the 1975 final stands in the way of it being the most destructive in World Cups.

Sangakarra has not lit the world on fire in World Cups, but his accomplishments mean just as much in Tests which will always be considered the better test in value.

He is playing in an era where Australia is arguably 70 percent better than their nearest rival as world number one in both forms of the game.

It means that Gilchrist has had weaker opposition to sow his batting destruction which apart from having the advantage of pressure-free environments to bat most of the time, the bowling he encounters is not half as threatening like it is when facing Australia.

Sangakkara averages 41 against Australia and has posted one ton. But the 192 he compiled last month was a gem, given the circumstances - the strength of the Aussie attack and the pressure of batting to avoid a clean sweep even if it was a two-Test series.

It was a one-man back-against- the wall display as Sangakkara fought the Australian juggernaut attack when his big name team-mates failed, and almost carried Sri Lanka to an amazing victory at Hobart.

That innings was the highlight of Sangakkara’s golden streak of six tons although it contained two double centuries. The fact that he also scored heavily with two centuries in New Zealand, tells you a lot about his ability being genuine and not of the home made bread variety.

It is no surprise the Sri Lankan averages 56 in Tests which is not only better than Gilchrist’s 49, but also Brian Lara’s and Sachin Tendulkar’s - the two batsmen considered this era’s best.

And when you consider he also keeps wicket and has been doing it for 70 Tests, this is a guy that reeks class because anyone who has played the game at the highest level, knows that keeping wicket and batting as high in the order as Sangakkara at number three and sometimes a notch lower, is back breaking work.

Gilchrist also averages in the 50’s in Tests which makes the debate close, yet even if you don’t consider the Australia’s softer opposition as a factor, Sangakarra has other accomplishments in his favor that would tilt the scales in any tie-break.

At 30 years of age, he is doing better than Gilchrist at that stage of the latter’s career and due to the fact he is currently juggling a law degree – one of the toughest university disciplines, between tours, gives his accomplishments extra value.

The current Test series in which England is suffering the ignominy of another series loss to Sri Lanka, for once was not spearheaded by Mutthia Muralitharan.

Sri Lanka’s powerful batting was the key this time around.

Sangakkara hit 152 in the first and only test that had a result which Sri Lanka won and barring a miracle today, will determine the three-match rubber 1-0.

It proves he is making an impact wherever he plays and big ones at that.

No wonder the Sri Lankan is the newly ranked world number one Test batsman.

He unseated Ricky Ponting recently which apart from bringing more glory to his country should also make Sangakkara the world’s best wicketkeeper/ batsman as well.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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