SIR Donald Bradman is the best batsmen the game of cricket has ever seen. Kumar Sangakkara is the second best.
Sangakkara, aged 37, retired from the international scene after the completion of the two-test series against India which finished on Monday.
He ends his career with 12,400 test runs at an average of 57.40, amassing 38 hundreds and 52 fifties in a glittering sixteen-year career.
Whilst the likes of Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting and most notably Sachin Tendulkar may lay meritorious claims to being the best since Bradman, the wicket keeping, left-hander from Sri Lanka cannot be surpassed.
The simplest and most convenient measure of comparison when weighing up the great batsmen is their batting average. Bradman, of course, still beggars incomprehension with his at 99.94, but the others aforementioned all sit comfortably in the 50s.
Tendulkar, the more popular choice as the best since ‘The Don’, finished with 53.78, Lara with 52.88 and Ponting 51.85.
Sangakkara played in 134 tests, the 11th most in history, yet averaged significantly closer to 60 than anyone else. Kallis with an average of 55.37 is the closest, but with the relative margins here even an extra two runs per innings is huge.
But crucially, and credit too as well to Kallis here for his all-round ability and record, Sangakkara played 48 of his test matches as the designated keeper. Of the remaining tests where he was purely a batsman he scored almost 10,000 runs at 66.78.
So when comparing averages of these giants of the game just as specialist batsmen, the case for Sangakkara becomes all the more compelling.
Kallis and Tendulkar do however enhance their credentials to ‘the best since Don’ because of their ability to carry their bat.
Kallis remained not out in 14% of his innings, Tendulkar 10% whereas Sangakkara was just at 7%. However South Africa and India have always been strong sides during the 90s and 00s, those two were often apart of setting up a big lead or finishing off a successful last innings total, Sangakkara in a less-so-successful Sri Lanka wasn’t afforded such a luxury.
But because of the amount of ‘not outs’ for Kallis and Tendulkar, Sangakkara blows them away for numbers based purely on runs per match.
Tendulkar averaged 79 , Kallis 80, yet Sangakkara averaged over 92 runs per match.
Then there are the hundreds.
Both Sangakkara and Tendulkar averaged a century in 16% of their innings, which is just phenomenal going, however it’s the big scores of the Sri Lankan that put him once more ahead of the Little Master.
Tendulkar scored 51 test centuries, a record that will be impossible to catch. Although only six of those were double hundreds with a highest score of 248 not out.
Including all innings, specialist batsmen or keeper, Sangakkara managed 11 double hundreds, almost twice as many, with three scores higher than Tendulkar’s personal best, one of which was a triple hundred, 319.
Taken into account the amount of innings each had, Sangakkara’s ratio of double tons to time at the crease is more than twice that of Tendulkar’s.
Tendulkar definitely trumps Sangakkara for longevity in the game, debuting at just the age of 15. But comparing their careers in terms of test runs milestones; Sangakkara has his Indian combatant yet again.
Sangakkara holds the records for being the fastest batsmen in history to 8,000, 9,000, 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 test runs. For example, Tendulkar scored his 10,000th run in his 122nd test match against Pakistan in 2005. Sangakkara got to the same mark in his 115th test match against Australia in 2012.
Further, Sangakkara maintained the acceleration into the twilight of his career, achieving the 11,000 and 12,000 milestones in his 122nd and 130th test matches respectively. Tendulkar, for the equivalent achievements did so in his 139th and 152nd tests.
Lastly, there’s the Bangladesh and Zimbabwe affect. Matches against these two minnows can inflate numbers and for both of these two heavyweights this is no different.
However, upon removing those two nations from their numbers, Sangakkara still averages 88 runs a test match, Tendulkar averages 77. They both score a century in around a quarter of their matches against the higher quality test playing nations, but it’s obviously Sangakkara who is then able to build the bigger innings against such quality.
Bradman once described Tendulkar as the player that most reminded him of himself. He passed away in February of 2001 and Sangakkara was in the middle of completing only his seventh test match at the time.
Sure, there are differences in style, technique, some subtle, some vast, but one can only ponder the appreciation the great Sir Don would have had for the career of the best batsman since.
It’s always a highly subjective debate but there can no longer be doubt, its Sir Don number one, Kumar, now, number two.