Terrific twosome

If Mahela Jayawardena was a compiler, Kumar Sangakkara was a plunderer. They complemented each other wonderfully, creating winning situations and often closing out contests. By Vijay Lokapally.

Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara, the leading lights of Sri Lankan cricket for more than a decade, specialised in forging big partnerships, the high watermark being their sending the South Africans on an unforgettable leather hunt in July 2006. The Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo became a theatre of celebration for Sri Lanka as these stalwarts came up with a partnership of 624 runs for the third wicket and set up a resounding victory for the team against an equally formidable rival.

South Africa had a decent attack, but Sri Lanka responded with its most trusted pair in modern cricket. Jayawardena hit a triple century and Sangakkara a big double to etch their names in history. The highest partnership for any wicket in Tests belonged to them. Few would grudge them the accolades, for this was indeed one of the finest batting pairs in the history of the game.

They grew up together with roots in school cricket and acknowledged each other’s potential. The regard was mutual for they valued and appreciated competitive cricket. Sri Lankan cricket benefited the most from their association and a healthy rivalry to serve the team. It was rare for both of them to fail at the same time and when that did happen it only drove home the point that they were indispensable to Sri Lankan cricket.

If Jayawardena was a compiler, Sangakkara was a plunderer. They complemented each other wonderfully, creating winning situations and often closing out contests. Neither believed in leaving the job to the other and in the process the opposition came to grief as Jayawardena and Sangakkara possessed an insatiable hunger for runs. This hunger grew with each season and it definitely came in handy when the opposition happened to be strong.

The right-left combination was a winner. Jayawardena and Sangakkara would identify the bowlers or bowler they had to decimate. They had different tastes for things in life, but a common goal on the field drove them to achieve great heights. They always gave the impression that they were playing for each other. By doing that, they also confirmed their devotion to the job on hand.

Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga had made a stellar contribution in helping Sri Lanka reach dizzy heights in world cricket, especially the 1996 World Cup triumph. For Jayawardena and Sangakkara, the World Cup remained elusive as Sri Lanka lost in the finals to Australia (2007) and India (2011). The final against India would always be remembered for the classic century that Jayawardena produced. It revived fond memories of the 1996 final when Aravinda de Silva cracked a pristine 107 to fashion Sri Lanka’s comprehensive victory.

But Jayawardena and Sangakkara had some compensation when they figured prominently in Sri Lanka’s title win against India in World T20. It was a tribute to their careers and also their ability to adapt. As seniors, they led the campaign on and off the field, taking up various issues that benefitted the players.

Jayawardena and Sangakkara took on the lead role in some of the battles against the administration, but at no point did they compromise their responsibility towards the team or the well-wishers of Sri Lankan cricket. They were an integral part of the Sri Lankan team in all formats of the game. The players realise this. So does Sri Lankan cricket.