The return of Kumar Sangakkara in the no. 1 spot of the latest ICC Test batsmen list obviously kindles the debatable question whether he is the best test batsman Sri Lanka has ever produced. Statistics shows that there are not many contenders like Jayawardene, Jayasuriya, De Silva who can surpass him; few can boast the numbers Sangakkara has achieved and he is undoubtedly one of the best, but one can never be certain whether he is THE best or not.
If we compare through the total test career runs by any Sri Lankan batsman, Sanga occupies the highest position just above Mahela and the sixth rank in the all time highest run getters list. They both are prolific scorers and have scored more than 11700 runs, whereas Jayasuriya and De Silva have test career runs 6973 and 6361. But what gives Sanga a crucial edge over Jayawardene is his brilliant average of 58 compared to the latter’s 50. Here, it should be noted that Sachin finished his career with average 53, and Kallis with 55, so 58 is a number someone can be proud of. It is the highest average of any batsman who has scored more than 10000 test runs. Angelo Matthews has shown good consistency to maintain an average just over 52, though he has a long way to go before he can become a Sri Lankan test legend since his total runs has not yet reached 3000 in his 43 tests.
Sri Lankan batsmen have a tendency to create records of long partnerships. Jayasuriya partnered Roshan Mohanama to make the monumental second wicket partnership of 576 in their way of doing a massive 932 run total. Sanga and Mahela once made a 624 run partnership against the Proteas back in 2006, Mahela involved in another 437 run partnership with Samarweera against Pakistan. Each of them has several great innings, but the eye-catching fact about Sangakkara is his no. of away centuries (13), including the beautiful one at Headingley (192) in a test which they lost. Jayawardene and De Silva are the next two entries with 10 and 9 centuries. Despite the fact that sub-continent players perform poorly in away tests, his away test average is above 53; much better comparing to Samarweera (43.31), Jayawardene (41.5), Dilshan (40.55) and Attapattu (39.61).
Sangakkara has a regular habit of breaking records. With his recent innings of 221 against Pakistan, he became second highest double-ton scorer(10) after Don Bradman(12), not to forget that he is now the one who has scored more than 190 for the highest number of times. He now has scored 37 test centuries, crossing Dravid’s 36. The second highest by any Sri Lankan batsman is Mahela’s 34, followed by 20 of De Silva. Sanga (319), along with Jayasuriya (340) and Jayawardene (375) are the only triple centurions of Sri Lanka.
If we keep ourselves aside from the junk of numbers, and talk about the essence and aesthetics of batting, there is hardly any criticism about Sangakkara’s technique and style. Peter Roebuck stated about him – “Nothing catches the eye about his work except its consistency and efficiency.” And apart from the classical test cricket, he can easily fit himself in the formats of ODI and T20I; this versatility is the asset of any batsman. The debate may go on and on whether he is the best or not, but a large number of cricket aficionados love to see Sangakkara padding up for no. 3, delivering a fine knock when his team is in crisis, and to please their eyes.