A legacy over a goodbye

Every fan is invested in the career of their favourite players, and I’d rather remember a great legacy like that of Kumar Sangakkara than a grand goodbye like Sachin’s.

I loved watching Brian Lara.

I was upset when Lara retired, not just because he would be no more, but because I felt he went prematurely. He retired in 2006/7, when he was 36, but when I was just 13.

This feeling of being robbed of some sumptuous Lara runs was compounded when contemporaries like Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, Shiv Chanderpaul and others, continued right until they were 40.

The question of when to go is really a dilemma that bugs fans as well as players.

On the one hand, you want to see your favourite players play on and on, but on the other hand, everyone forges a legacy, that must end at some point.

I remember Lara walking off in his final innings, thinking that he could have carried on, but in recent years, I’ve had to change my view.

His abrupt ending was not right, but at the same time, Sachin Tendulkar’s legacy was arguably tarnished by his decision to play on too long.

He played on until 2013, when he was 40. But he had scored just over 500 runs in his last 15 Tests. He was playing for numbers and records, chasing a nice figures, like getting to 200 Tests, 100 international hundreds, and 15,000 runs.

Like the three bears, if Sachin played too long, Lara was cut off prematurely, one batsman got it just right, and is perhaps the model for future great retirees.

Despite being fifth on the all-time Test run scoring list, Kumar Sangakkara is so often overlooked as a true ‘great’.

But, perhaps one hallmark of greatness, is knowing when to quit.

His exit was slow, starting with International retirement in 2015, done at a time when he could have continued. He scored 1,400runs in 2014, averaging over 70. He left us wanting more.

Despite no more international ambition, unlike Sachin and Brian Lara, after retiring Kumar Sangakkara climbed down to domestic cricket. He scored a thousand First Class runs for Surrey, averaged in the mid-forties in List A cricket, and got through 46 T20s in 2016.

He recognised that retirement is a process that requires the sequential relinquishing of responsibilities.

This week, in an interview with Island Cricket, the Sri Lankan Legend shows no regrets. Speaking about his retirement, he said: “..my mind was made up at that time and I was not going to think of reasons that were quite selfish [to continue].

“..in my view, when you know it is time to go, no matter what is in front of you, you have to make a decision and stick to it..”

He fulfilled his desire to carry on in some capacity, whilst not jeopardising the legacy he’d built up.

Sadly, he has got to the bottom rung of the ladder.

He has just been dropped by his Big Bash League side, the Hobart Hurricanes after scoring just 173 runs at 14.41 without a fifty.

Damian Wright, the coach spoke about dropping Sangakkara, saying it “was comfortably the hardest thing I’ve had to do… because of the quality person that he is”. He says: “You could feel he probably knew it was coming. He was pretty apologetic that he hasn’t gone as well he would have liked it.’”

Retirement might be hard, but remembering a batsman’s retirement is the biggest curse a player can have.

I’ll remember Sachin walking down the steps for the last time, and I’ll remember Lara walking off for the last time. I can’t remember Sanga’s last Test.

He showed no regrets about retirement or bitterness from his decline. He showed no greed to carry on for Sri Lanka, but a hunger to continue in another capacity.

Not being able to remember Sangakkara’s finale is the biggest complement one can pay him.

Why Kumar Sangakkara is very good, but not a great

Kumar Sangakkara’s astonishing statistical record has often led people to attribute him to be a true great of the game. At closer inspection he has not had as tough a route as others, and this title needs reconsideration. 

Before you quit this post because you love watching Sangakkara so much, let’s get a few things straight.

He is cricket as an art form.

I love watching him, and he is certainly in my top one favourite batsmen ever. 

Nobody disputes he is an exceptional talent, with longevity, class and ability, but there is certainly a case that two of his major flaws been glossed over because of how good he is to watch.

Let’s take a look. 

Sangakkara has done it all. His Test average is nearly 60 (58.66), he has over 12200 Test runs, 38 Test hundreds and 51 Test fifties. This has all been done over the course of 130 Tests, and he is also the fasted batsman, in terms of innings, EVER, to reach 12000 runs, which is an achievement that he reached in 23 innings fewer than Sachin Tendulkar, as you can see below.

He is pretty damn good at batting.

Screenshot 2015-01-11 21.55.30

So, I’m guessing you’re now thinking how an earth can this man seriously be brought down.. 

Sub-Continental runs are not less valuable than runs outside, but Kumar Sangakkara has got a notoriously Sub-Continent heavy record.

It is an undeniable fact.

Sangakkara has scored 30 of his 38 Test hundreds in Asia (75%). He has scored 9158 of his 12203 Test runs (75%) in Asia.  

Compared to two other sub-continental greats, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, no number of velvety Sangakkara cover drives can make up for the disparity in consistency. 

Sachin, by comparison, of course played more Tests, with 200. But he scored 33 of his 51 Test tons in Asia (64%), which is much better than Sangakkara. Dravid had a better record too, with 22 of his 36 Test tons (61%) in Asia, and 7370 Test runs in Asia (55%), which is again better.

So yes, Sangakkara did get to 12000 the quickest, but he also scored a lot more runs in conditions which were more favourable to him.

In non-Sub-Continental conditions, Sanga has had much more limited success. In South Africa he averages 35, in the Caribbean just 34, and in England 41. This does not extend to Australia and New Zealand, where he has averaged over 60. 

It is clear, that Sangakkara, at least compared to the two other Asian ‘greats’ has a poorer record outside of Asia, and heavily relies on conditions closer to home. 

For that reason, he is not a great, because his record has been vastly inflated.

The only real other chink in Sangakkara’s record is the fact that he scored a lot of runs against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, compared to his closest contemporaries. 

Sangakkara’s seven centuries against Bangladesh,  including 1816 runs vastly outweighs his closest rivals, and this also further inflates his record. 

Bangladesh are not very good at Test cricket. In their history, they have won seven games, all against the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

Sangakkara’s seven centuries constitute 18% of his overall career Test centuries and 14% of his runs, and they don’t reflect a true great, when considered with the previous angle of having a poor non-subcontinental record. 

Versus Bangladesh, Sangakkara’s contemporaries for greatness, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis scored 1957 runs combined. This is only marginally more than Sangakkara did alone, and echoes just how significant Bangladeshi runs are for the Sri Lankan number three, and for Sri Lanka as a Test team as a whole. They clearly play them a lot.

Ponting scored just 6% of his 13378 Test runs against Bangladesh, with Sachin Tendulkar (5%), Rahul Dravid ( 4%) and Jacques Kallis (2%) all taking a much more arduous route to the top.

Now of course, a player can only score centuries against who they play.

Not for one moment would anybody criticise Sangakkara for scoring those runs.

But his nine centuries versus Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in 20 Tests he played against them, causes his average to shoot up from 53.83 to 58.66. 

The threshold for greatness must be high, and this must be taken into consideration. 

Can he seriously be considered a great when he has ultimately filled his boots against a very poor opposition to prop up his figures?

Can he really be called a great when he has relied so heavily on conditions that are so familiar to him? Perhaps there is an argument that he shouldn’t be. 

Of course statistics are not everything. 

Players are considered greats for a plethora of reasons.

Don Bradman is considered the best for his average and his consistency.

Brian Lara for his spark, and for twice breaking the world record highest test score.

Sangakkara is seen as a great by many because he makes batting look sexy and easy. He is a joy to watch, and he always goes big, with 11 double centuries to his name , which is second top.

Without a doubt, Sangakkara will be viewed as an incredible batsman, and probably the best Sri Lankan, after Murali.

He plays every shot, he can bat in every style in every format, and he is a very cool and classy head. But great? His reliance on runs versus vulnerable opposition in conditions that benefit him will differentiate him from those that were able to do it against everyone, everywhere.

To prove this is *nothing* personal against you Sanga, here is my an awesome video.

Mankading For Dummies – Law and Spirit

Confused by Mankading?

Is all you get when searching it this man?

Don’t worry. I will explain everything.

“What is it?”

Good question. It’s really simple. Mankading refers to running out the non striking batsman.

Before the ball has been bowled, the non striker backs up [runs a few yards extra]; to get a head start for a run. This means they often leave their crease early, and can thus be run out.

Other cricketers don’t go as far as actually doing it, but merely taunt the batsman to know they can do it. Thanks Chris..

Thanks Chris.

Is it legal to do this?

Kind of yes. Oh allright, completely yes.

The ICC’s playing regulation 42.11, which replaces Law 42.15 in international cricket, states:

“The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker.”

The ICC essentially run the game’s playing regulations, although the MCC are of course responsible for making the actual laws and spirit of the game. The MCC states the run out attempt must come before the bowler enters his delivery stride.

In other words, according to the ICC it must be before the action is completed. According to the MCC before the stride has started.

If we play by the laws of the game made hundreds of years ago, Mankading should be hard to do, but if by the current playing regulations, it should happen lots and lots.

The ICC [who run the modern playing regulations, like fielding restrictions etc] allow it to come any time before the bowler completes his “delivery swing”, whatever that means.

So what’s the problem then!?

Well you see there is this mystical thing called the spirit of cricket.

It’s kind of like the ghost of christmas past; except it actually does have a tangeble effect on how players play.

The spirit of cricket implies sportsmanship, and a way to play the game.

For some, Mankading is against the spirit of cricket, because the batsman leaves the crease inadvertently. They aren’t trying to steal a run. Except they are. That’s exactly what they’re doing.

This is going through your head now?  [Via  ]


It basically allows the batsman to have a head start for a run, whilst the bowler is not allowed a to overstep. And it is presented as sportsmanship NOT to run them out.

Maybe we have just been getting it wrong all along? [Via  ]


In reality, it has been going on for a long time.

In more modern terms, it was ignited as an issue of ‘sportsmanship’ when India toured Australia in 1947 and the man at the top [Vinoo Mankad] did it to Bill Brown.

Don Bradman defended him.

In his autobiography, Don Bradman said the following:

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why [the press] questioned his sportsmanship. The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the nonstriker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered. If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out? By backing up too far or too early, the nonstriker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage.”

But some, such as Piers Morgan says that it is not a legitimate way of dismissal as it is against the spirit.

So.. who’s side are you on?

The Don? Or Piers Morgan

Michael Clarke was certainly happy to say that it is a legitimate dismissal:

Although England’s captain, Alastair Cook continued to moan and groan:

Bearing in mind things like playing leg side shots, bowling bouncers, and even bowling over arm, back in the day; were once considered as ‘unsportsmanlike’, maybe it’s time to move on?

Maybe it should be used more widely, and made a more conventional way of getting a batsman out. If batsmen insist on running down the pitch and getting a head start, it should be at their own peril