Milestone man

Goal-setting and perseverance have always been part of the Sangakkara way of life, writes Arun Venugopal.

There is a real risk of not seeing Kumar Sangakkara’s craft for what it is. Often, the syrupy strains of his batting come in the way, as also does the appeal of his perky college-kid looks, enhanced undoubtedly by a prankster’s naughty smile (that has singularly resulted in many women nursing a secret crush).

What is lost, then, is a perspective of the restless ambition and the resultant hard work that have taken Sangakkara to exalted levels. Racing ahead of an illustrious group, he recently became the quickest to score 11,000 runs in Test cricket (in innings) over the course of his maiden triple-hundred (319) against Bangladesh in the second Test in Chittagong. He is also now joint-second with Brian Lara for the most number of double-centuries (nine), behind only Sir Donald Bradman (12). Again, the record might have caught people by surprise given the relative ease with which he goes about his stuff. But goal-setting and perseverance have always been part of the Sangakkara way of life. He once said in an interview that his primary target in international cricket was to score 10,000 runs and 30 centuries in Tests.

Sangakkara, while having achieved them, seems good for a few more statistical milestones. Before the commencement of the Bangladesh tour, there was a rare blip as he had a below-par series against Pakistan in the UAE. But in Chittagong, Sangakkara melded stunning shot-making with calculated daredevilry. There was nary a hint of trepidation as he breezed to 300 from 250 in the company of the tail. Taking the boundary route to reach 300 in the first innings, he cracked another hundred in the second dig.

The man himself was understated about his achievement. “I grew up watching and idolising Sir Vivian Richards,” Sangakkara said. “Then Brian Lara came along and he was magical to watch, so I am pretty happy to have equalled him in some kind of way. But I don’t think I will equal him as a batsman, because I think he is on a completely different level to most of the batsmen I have seen.”

The two innings were as much a testimony to his run-hungry approach as a champion’s resolve to put things in order. Along with Mahela Jayawardene, his buddy and fellow Sri Lankan legend, Sangakkara has given his countrymen many moments to savour. However, while evaluating the duo’s status as the game’s greats, there is one protest that invariably comes up — that a sizeable portion of their runs has been amassed on the placid surfaces of the sub-continent. In fact, during the course of Sangakkara’s marathon innings, the blogosphere was agog with hectic debates on whether he merited a place among the very best.

But the 36-year-old has proved over time his ability to surmount challenges abroad. A recent memory is his polished, unbeaten hundred against England in the ICC Champions Trophy last year, while the 192 against Australia in a losing cause at Hobart in 2007 was another knock that underscored his class in different conditions.

With both the 50-overs and the T20 World Cup titles having proved elusive thus far, Sangakkara, who is perhaps in the last lap of his career, would look to iron out the glitch.