Written by Staff Writer
20 Aug, 2015 | 10:04 am
A total of 20,978 runs from 237 Tests* at an average of 78.15. In 649 ODIs, 22,215 runs at an average of 43.24. These are the combined numbers of Kumar Sangakkara and Michael Clarke. On August 20, 2015, both these players will play their final Test match. When the Tests in P Sara Oval in Colombo and The Oval in London end, the two legends of the game will leave the cricketing world poorer.
Cricket is a game that has thrived on comparisons. In the case of Clarke and Sangakkara, there are plenty of similarities and some contrasts.
If one has to look at the way how Sangakkara and Clarke started their cricketing careers, the contrast is evident. In the beginning, Sangakkara did not know whether he belonged to the Sri Lankan dressing room. It took one knock of 98 against South Africa in tough conditions in 2001, one year after he made his debut in 2000, to give him necessary assurance and confidence.
Clarke made a memorable start. On his Test debut against India in 2004, he played a knock that established him as a once in a generation cricketer. He tackled the likes of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in such spectacular fashion that his 151 put Australia on the path where they would conquer the final frontier after a gap of 35 years. Clarke’s display in Bangalore had made him the golden boy of Australia.
When it came to run-scoring, both batsmen outclassed each other several times. While Sangakkara amassed big scores, including a magnificent 287 in a record partnership of 624 against South Africa in 2006, Clarke was scoring centuries but they were not big hundreds. While Sangakkara’s big appetite for big runs eased, Clarke responded with four double-tons in one year. When Clarke scored 329 against India in Sydney, it took Sangakkara two years to respond with 319 against Bangladesh. Both players almost outdid each other when it came to guts and determination.
Sangakkara’s epic 192 against Australia at Hobart almost helped Sri Lanka achieve the impossible. Clarke withstood a fierce bouncer barrage from Morne Morkel in Cape Town in 2014 but responded with 161 despite a broken shoulder.
Sangakkara has been part of four heart-breaking ICC tournament finals. In the 2007 World Cup, Sri Lanka were blown away by a blitz from Adam Gilchrist. In the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup, it took an inspired Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi to give Pakistan victory. In the 2011 World Cup, MS Dhoni shattered their dreams while in the 2012 Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka, it took a freakish innings from Marlon Samuels to break millions of Sri Lanka hearts.
Both players are leaving at interesting times. For Clarke, the fire seems to have burned down due to a combination of injuries and due to the heartbreak surrounding the death of Phillip Hughes. For Sangakkara, he is leaving at a time when Sri Lanka cricket is in transition and when there are whispers that he prefers County over Country. Yet, greatness has come easily for Sangakkara but for Clarke, it has taken years of toil to make people acknowledge his ability.
In a nutshell, these two cricketers have given us cherished memories. One will miss Sangakkara’s trade-mark punch off the back foot and his bent knee cover drive. In the coming summer, one might not see Clarke’s shot-arm pull or his nimble footed advance down the wicket to the spinners. Sangakkara looked assured while Clarke was a nervous starter. One was smooth and classy while the other was determined, dogged and resolute.
The cricketing world will be poorer with the absence of Sangakkara and Clarke. However, for this generation of fans, it has been a treat to see a Sri Lankan and Australian, two contrasting cultures traversing their own diverse yet similar paths to greatness.
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