Batting great Mahela Jayawardene ranks retiring Kumar Sangakkara as the greatest batsman produced by Sri Lanka since their international debut in 1975
New Delhi: Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has paid a fitting tribute to the retiring Kumar Sangakkara, describing him as the "greatest batsman" to have emerged from the island nation since their entry into international cricket (in 1975).
Sangakkara, who has 12,000-plus Test runs and 14,000-plus runs in ODIs, will retire from international cricket after playing the first two Tests against India in the three-match series starting Wednesday.
"Let me put it straight. Kumar Sangakkara is the best batsman that Sri Lanka has ever produced. Aravinda De Silva will always be a sentimental favourite for most of the Sri Lankans including me but numbers alone make Kumar a phenomenal achiever. More than 60 international centuries (38 in Tests and 25 ODIs). Look at those staggering numbers," former captain Jayawardene paid rich tributes to his long-time teammate in an exclusive interview to PTI.
Jayawardene, who himself has close to 25,000 international runs, said that Sangakkara pushed the boundaries in real sense and has set imposing targets for the next generation of Lankan cricketers. "Kumar's greatness was his ability to score runs against any attack in all types of conditions. He really pushed his boundaries and has set some imposing targets for the next generation of cricketers.
"In any international sport, there are only a few who attained greatness in every aspect, whether for your performance on the field or your conduct off it. Kumar was one such player. The void left by him will take some time to fill. I believe Sri Lankan cricket as a whole was blessed to have him. I consider myself lucky to have played alongside a champion performer like Kumar," he said.
Lankan Tiger: Kumar Sangakkara plays a leg-side shot off an England bowler en route his 147 at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 14, 2014. Pic/Getty Images
While he was emotional about the farewell of his closest friend (they run a restaurant together in Colombo – Ministry of Crabs), Jayawardene did not forget to mention that India will have an "upper hand" in the upcoming series.
"It will be a competitive series but I guess India will have an upper hand as they have a more or less steady team. The Sri Lanka team on the other hand is going through a transition phase as some of the youngsters are settling down. Hopefully, the team will give Kumar a fitting farewell by winning the series," said Jayawardene.