We’re (No. 3 batsmen) the ones who make life easier for the kings of batting, the middle order that follows us – Rahul Dravid.
That was one of the many quotes that stuck to my mind during Rahul Dravid’s famous speech at the Bradman Oration late last year. A player who had gutsed it out at the middle telling you how tough the job actually was.
You watch a Dravid innings, the struggle he goes through is not very hard to miss. Face writ with concentration, lips tightly sealed, eyes fixed on the ball as he smothers it to the ground ball after ball… after ball. Perhaps an equally pleasing sight is when another great No 3 of our era plays a cover drive with utter ease and utmost grace.
Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara is one of those players who has often left you with a I-must-be-dreaming feeling after watching one of his pugnacious knocks. The left hander always seems to have so much class and time when batting. Sangakkara, throughout his career, has been a master class of both technique and elegance. He has to be amongst the most polished batsmen to be playing the game – mixing attack with defence in the most effective and stylish way possible. Style though is only one of Sangakkara’s strength, he has the talent and technique to impose himself on any attack in the world.
He along with the equally pleasing-to-the-eye Mahela Jayawardene have been Sri Lanka’s batting mainstays and an integral part of the team during the Island Nation’s transitional period. He had the responsibility of rebuilding the team wrest on his shoulders when he was young and he has responded brilliantly; with the bat, behind the wickets, as a fielder and as a captain. Sangakkara has always been a man of many tasks. He is a player who seems to be involved with almost anything that happens yet remains classy and unflustered.
During his blistering knock of 30 today, the classy 34 year old notched up a milestone that many can only dream of – 10,000 ODI runs. For fans who have watched Sangakkara, they will know that the record was just a matter of time. He’s been among the top batsmen in the world for a while now and it was only apt that he joins the best in the 10K category. He becomes the 10th player ever, and only the 3rd Sri Lankan to have notched up that milestone and also the quickest. He also holds the 2nd position for most runs as a wicket-keeper, sitting 284 runs behind legendary Australian dasher Adam Gilchrist.
Blessed with the ability with the bat doesn’t guarantee success though and Sangakkara knew that all too well. He has maintained that it was through consistent hard work that he kept up his performances and it showed, more than ever, in the last 2 years. The left hander has been in scorching hot form in the last 2 years, this despite his team consistently flattering to deceive in recent times. He aggregates the 2nd highest since January 2010, only 376 runs behind India’s young stalwart Virat Kohli in spite of having played 12 fewer innings.
Despite the mountain of runs and talent to his name, Sanga will want to improve on his average and his 50 to 100 conversion ratio. The Lankan legend averages less than 38 in ODIs while his 50 to 100 conversion rate too doesn’t make for great reading. The left hander bats mainly at the top of the order and has seventy-nine 50 plus scores to his name. He has been able to convert only 12 of those into triple figures, which is a less than twice in 10 attempts. For a batsman of his calibre and ability, that is too low a number.
However, what he lacks in average and conversion rate, he more than makes up with his ability to churn out match winning performances for his country. He is without doubt one of their best match winners with his total contribution in Sri Lankan wins only behind the legendary Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene, both of whom have played more matches than the wicket-keeper batsman.
The 34 year old’s commitment to the betterment of cricket both only further emphasizes how much he has given to his country over the years. In July last year, Sangakkara gave a hard hitting speech about how politics and money-mindedness have taken over and subsequently ruining Sri Lankan cricket. He wasn’t afraid or intimidated by what may be, he knew what was to be done to ensure his country takes a step forward and he was up for the challenge.
Just like his batting.
Sangakkara has 9300+ runs in the Test format at a healthy average and is a force to reckon with in the T20 format as well. A true all-rounder, the Sri Lankan still has a lot to offer and Sri Lankan fans would be hoping the 10000 run mark spurs him on more.