Sri Lanka is a country divided by many aspects but brought together by one thing. Yes, you guessed it right! That is the love that Sri Lankans have for Cricket. Simply, it is the most popular sport in the country. In fact, it is more popular than the national sport of Sri Lanka, Volleyball. The heartbeats of the whole nation play one single rhythm when the Sri Lankan Cricket team is on the field. Besides, many prestigious cricketers emerged from this country and became world-famous. Owing to this reason, we thought of having a look at the best of one such Sri Lankan cricketer who is loved on and off the field. Yes, he is none other than Kumar Sangakkara, the legendary wicketkeeper, and the batsman.
He indeed needs no introduction. As you might already know, Kumar Sangakkara, or well known as Sanga, is one of the most prolific figures in the face of the game. All Sri Lankans throughout the world love and respect him for his great contribution to the game during his time. He topped the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings several times during his career of 15 years. He has been the last straw for the Sri Lankan team on more than a few occasions.
However, he is indeed a personality worth looking up to. Thus, let us get to know about him, in detail.
Early Life and Education of Kumar Sangakkara
Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara was born in 1977 in Matale in the Central province of Sri Lanka. He and his three siblings grew up with their parents in Kandy.
Sangakkara went to Trinity College in Kandy. He was a chorister and a violinist at school and displayed talents in all sports. He won national colors in Badminton and Tennis during his journey at school. Similarly, he was the head boy of the school for a few years. Thus, he was able to achieve the “Trinity Lion” and “Ryde Gold medal” back in school for his achievements. Moreover, Kumar Sangakkara represented his school’s Under 13, Under 17, and Under 19 cricket teams.
Besides, Sangakkara was a bright student during his period at school. Hence, he was selected to the Law faculty of the University of Colombo. However, he continued to play cricket while in Sri Lanka Law College. Later, he was able to represent the Sri Lanka List-A team for the tour of South Africa in the year 2000. He scored a successful 156 against Zimbabwe which paved his way to the Sri Lanka National team in the same year.
International Cricket Career of Kumar Sangakkara
Sangakkara boasts a successful international cricket career of 15 years. During his international cricket career, he has set up a few records that remain unbreakable to date. He led the Sri Lankan team for the ICC World Cup 2011 where Sri Lanka became the runners-up.
Entering International Cricket
After a rapid 156 score against the Zimbabwe A team, Sanga made his international ODI debut against Pakistan in the Singer Tri-series in July 2000 on home soil. He scored 35 runs against Pakistan in the first match. Moreover, he won the “Player of the Match” title for the second match of the series in which he scored a triumphant, unbeaten 86 against South Africa. Thus, he made his test debut in the same series and scored 23 runs.
Growing up with the best cricketers of that time, Sanga rose to fame gradually. He collected the first century under his name in 2001 against India. Sri Lanka won this match with 10 wickets. Yet, he missed out 5 times in the ’90s before making it to his maiden Test century.
Later, Sangakkara scored his first double century in 2002 against Pakistan. Little did he know that he would go on to collect the highest number of double centuries, next to Sir Donald Bradman. As a result, the Sri Lankan Cricket Board decided to include him in the ICC World ODI XI in 2005 as well as in the World Test team in 2006.
When the regular captain Marvan Atapattu was suffering from an injury for the Bangladesh tour of 2006, Mahela Jayawardana filled him in and appointed Sanga as the vice-captain. In 2006, he and Mahela Jayawardena set the record for the highest partnership with 627 runs against South Africa and secured a tremendous victory for Sri Lanka with an innings and 153 runs. This record still holds as the highest partnership for any wicket. Consequently, Sanga rose to the top of ICC world ranking by the end of 2007 with a rating of 938, the highest rating ever racked up by a Sri Lankan.
Kumar Sangakkara succeeded Mahela Jayawardhana as captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team when Mahela Jayawardhana stepped down from captaincy. Sanga was the captain of the team for the 2009 ICC Twenty 20 World Cup hosted by England. In this series of matches, Sri Lanka became the runners-up in the feat, defeated by Pakistan. The Sri Lanka team struggled yet again under his captaincy when the team failed to make it to the knockout stage in the ICC Champions Trophy held in September 2009. The India tour that followed was also a debacle. However, India won the ODI series 3-1 and the Test match series 2-0.
Sri Lankan team picked up the rhythm under Sanga’s captaincy when the team won the tri-series held in Bangladesh beating Bangladesh as well as India. In the same way, the Zimbabwe tri-series and Sri Lanka tri-series that followed were victorious. The tour of Australia during November 2010 ended with a record; Sri Lanka’s first-ever series victory in Australia. In that series, Sri Lanka won the T20 match and the 2 ODI matches out of 3. Yet, Kumar Sangakkara announced that he will resign from captaincy after the ICC World Cup 2011, a month before the tournament began.
At ICC world cup 2011, Sanga scored 465 runs in 9 matches. However, the team faced a painful loss to the Indian team in the final match, tallying at yet another runners-up. Cricinfo included Sanga in their “Team of the Tournament” and similarly in the “Team of the Tournament ” by the International Cricket Council (ICC). After the world cup, Sanga processed his resignation from captaincy to the public and Thilakaratne Dilshan succeeded him.
After the World Cup, the Sri Lankan team toured England in May 2011. In this, Sanga had to fill in when the new captain Thilakarathne Dilshan suffered a broken thumb. Sanga scored a century but the series was a 1-0 loss for Sri Lanka. In the Test series that followed, Sanga scored 516 runs in 3 matches and became the man of the series. Pakistan won this series by 1-0. In 2012, in the test series against Pakistan, Sanga missed out twice at 199 and 192 before making it to the double century. The Sri Lankan team won this series, the first series victory since Muttaiah’s retirement.
Sanga played for the victorious 2014 ICC World Twenty20 tournament. Although Sanga struggled with his form in the first few matches, he scored 51 not out in the final match against India. This is Sri Lanka’s first ICC Trophy after 1996. The 2015 ICC World Cup was a record-breaking tournament for Sanga, even though Sri Lanka didn’t make it to the semi-finals. Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanna renewed the record for the highest second-wicket partnership, with a score of 212. Accordingly, Sanga made his 400th ODI appearance at the match against Bangladesh in the same tournament. He also passed 14000 ODI runs becoming the first Sri Lankan to achieve the feat and second overall.
Furthermore, he became the first player in World Cup history to score four consecutive centuries. However, Sri Lanka faced an agonizing defeat by South Africa in the knockouts round.
Statistics and Records of Kumar Sangakkara
Sanga’s specialty is in his numbers. He has a persistent record, with not many drawbacks. He amassed more than 28000 runs in his international career. 14234 ODI runs, 12400 test runs and 1382 T20I runs make up the total of 28016 runs in his career. In addition, he owns an impressive record for the fastest 8000, the fastest 9000, a joint-record for the fastest 10000, the fastest 11000, and the fastest 12000 in the test matches. Later in 2014, Sanga scored his 13000th run in ODI, the fourth player to do so after Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, and Sanath Jayasooriya.
In the 7-match ODI series against England, he scored four consecutive half-centuries and his 20th ODI century. Together with Mahela Jayawardena, he set the record for the highest partnership in a T20I World cup match in 2010. In the same way, in 2014, Sanga scored his highest score in a test match, 319, and thus became the third Sri Lankan player to score a triple century after Sanath Jayasooriya and Mahela Jayawardhana. The next highlight of his journey is surpassing the record held by Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid for the most partnership runs for the third wicket. Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardhana renewed the record with 5890 runs for the third wicket.
Similarly, Kumar Sangakkara considers 2014 as his golden year of cricket; he gathered 2868 runs in all formats of the game, most runs in all formats of the game in a calendar year. In the 2015 World Cup, he collected 4 consecutive centuries, the highest number of consecutive centuries to date. Moreover, as the most elegant wicket-keeping batsman, he made history with the most dismissals in ODI’s, 482 dismissals.
Retirement from Cricket
Sanga retired from the Twenty20 International field after the 2014 ICC Twenty20 world cup win. His teammate Mahela also retired with him. Later, the same year he announced his retirement from the ODI arena after the 2015 ICC World Cup. The quarter-finals against South Africa at the 2015 ICC World Cup were both his and Mahela Jayawardhana’s last match and their 150th match together.
In the same way, Sanga announced his retirement from test cricket in June 2015. His last test match was against India at P Sara Oval ground. His teammates Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasooriya, Thilan Samaraweera, and Muttiah Muralitharan came to the ground to bid him farewell. They decorated the ground pavilions with messages like “Thank you Sanga” and “Class never retires”.
Thus, as a player who slew with bat and was consistent throughout his career, Sangakkara concluded his international cricket journey with 134 Tests, 404 ODIs, and 56 T20Is.
Domestic Cricket Career of Kumar Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara played domestic Cricket for the Nondescripts Cricket Club (NCC) in Sri Lanka. He participated in the 2007 English County Championship playing for the Warwickshire team. The Surrey team contracted Sanga for the 2015-2016 season. Kumar Sangakkara continued to play for Surrey after he retired from international Cricket. He scored his 100th century in 2017 while playing for Surrey. When he retired from first-class Cricket in 2017, he had gathered 61 first-class centuries and 31 centuries from list-A games.
Similarly, Kumar Sangakkara participated for five seasons of the Indian Premier League. The winning bid for him was $700,000 in 2008 from Kings XI Punjab. He played for Deccan Chargers in 2011 and was the captain of Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2013. Sangakkara scored 1567 runs and ten half-centuries in IPL. Later, in 2021, the Rajasthan Royals team chose him as their director of Cricket.
In addition to the Indian Premier League, the Jamaica Tallawahs contracted Sangakkara to play for the Caribbean Premier League in 2013.
Coaching Career of Kumar Sangakkara
While Kumar Sangakkara was playing his final Test at P Sara Oval in 2015, the BCCI conducted an emergency meeting to choose their new batting coach. Thus, they selected Sangakkara as the new batting coach of the Indian team. However, with the warm welcome of Indian Test captain Virat Kohli, Sangakkara joined the team.
Later, in 2021, the Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals selected Kumar Sangakkara as the Director of cricket for Rajasthan Royals. At the time he was working as the President of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).
Kumar Sangakkara began his commentary career in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy tournament. He was a commentator for the global broadcast of the ICC World Cup 2019. In addition, he was also a part of the IPL commentary panel in 2019 and 2020. He was a commentator for the Sky Sports commentary panel for English summer of 2018 furthermore. Accordingly, Sangakkara not only emerged as one of the best cricketers but also as a commentator with passion.
Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture can never be ignored! In 2011, Sangakkara became the youngest person to deliver the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at the Lord’s ground. He was the first Sri Lankan and also the first active international player to deliver the Cowdrey lecture. In his speech, he spoke about the history of Cricket in Sri Lanka, the social impact of Cricket on the country, and administration issues that arose after the 1996 world cup. His accusations made the sports minister Mahindanda Aluthgamage order an investigation. Nevertheless, Sanga’s speech was regarded as one of the best in history, in the world of cricket. Not only Sri Lankans, but people worldwide listened to his lecture again and again, and praised it with much appreciation.
Awards Achieved by Kumar Sangakkara
It is no secret that Kumar Sangakkara was a history-making cricketer. Thus, he has been nominated and won many awards during his career.
He won the most prestigious Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC cricketer of 2012. In addition, he achieved the award of ICC test player of the year in 2012 and ICC ODI player of the year twice, in 2012 and 2013. He made it to the ICC World Test team in 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2014.
Furthermore, the ICC included him in the ICC World XI in 2011, 2013, and 2015. He won the award for the ICC ODI player of the year in 2011 and 2013. Similarly, he was able to win the CEAT International Cricketer of the year award in 2015. Accordingly, Kumar Sangakkara received the title of Wisden Leading Cricketer of the Year in 2011 and 2014. Besides, he won the LG people’s choice award in 2 consecutive years, 2011 and 2012.
Besides, he was inducted into the ICC hall of fame in June 2021, the second Sri Lankan player inducted into the ICC hall of fame. He had the honor to become the first non-British president for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) for a one-year term from 2019.
Personal Life and Charity Work of Kumar Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara is married to Yehali Sangakkara and has 2 kids. Sanga always believed that he should use his celebrity status for something far greater than Cricket. Thus, the former skipper of Sri Lanka began to be involved in charity work.
He is a part of the Think Wise campaign by ICC, a partnership with UNICEF and UNAIDS to eradicate discrimination and promote HIV and AIDS awareness. Moreover, he is an ambassador of the British Asian Trust. They work to eliminate poverty and enhance mental health and improve education in South Asia.
Kumar Sangakkara is also a part of the Foundation of Goodness which works to raise the living standards of underprivileged communities in Sri Lanka. He, along with many other Sri Lankan cricketers, donated generously for COVID-19 relief aid in 2020.
The Popularity of Kumar Sangakkara
Not only Sanga’s talents, but also his gentleman qualities, passion, and style indeed made him a significant figure in the field of cricket. Kumar, this humble and unique batsman is much underrated compared to his contemporaries, although his records prove otherwise. However, if there’s anyone who has watched at least a single cricket match that the Sri Lankan cricket team played during that era, they should certainly know about this fantastic cricketer. Yes, he is that much of an icon. That is the simple reason why he is immensely loved by cricket lovers, not only in Sri Lanka but from every corner of the world.
Besides, the most important thing to note is that he did not misuse the image he built, and the popularity he gained. Instead, he tried his best to serve the sport, and help the community to reach greater standards. Thus, Kumar Sangakkara is undoubtedly a man of cricket that assured the mark of Sri Lanka Cricket boldly in the world cricket arena.
The Bottom Line
Kumar Sangakkara is a cricketer whom Sri Lankans still love, even though they do not see him on the field anymore. Besides, this wonderful personality is indeed a good example for all the budding cricket stars in Sri Lanka. So, with all his significant contributions, and specialties, we can simply mention that Kumar Sangakkara is indeed a living legend. However, his contributions won’t stop here. Thus, let us whole-heartedly wish him all the best in all his future endeavors!