By Abhijit Banare
Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are two pillars on which the magnificent edifice of Sri Lankan cricket has been built. Sangakkara at No 3 and Jayawardene No 4 has the same aura that Rahul Dravid at No 3 and Sachin Tendulkar at No 4 brought for India for over a decade and a half.
The task of the duo will be cut-out on Thursday when Sri Lanka take on India in the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 semi-final at Cardiff, Wales.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has stated that their focus would be on the entire Lankan batting and not just the two greats. But it may inevitably end up being so, considering the runs they’ve scored in the tournament. The batting line-up of this Sri Lankan squad hasn’t appeared threatening as neither the usually-reliable Dinesh Chandimal nor the aggressive Tillakaratne Dilshan have fired in the ongoing tournament.
In the three matches Sri Lanka have played thus far, Sangakkara has contributed handsomely in two of them — one in a lost cause and the other a match-winning century. Jayawardene saw the team home in the crunch encounter against Australia. While one helped Sri Lanka to stay alive, the other pushed them into the semis.
Their numbers are staggering enough to be remembered as historic. Sangakkara and Jayawardene are Sri Lanka’s top-scorers against India in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) with 2,435 and 2,280 runs at an average of 40 and 35 respectively. Jayawardene’s knock of 84 against Australia enabled him to join Sangakkara in the 11,000-run club. In terms of partnerships, the duo has put on 5,284 runs [in ODIs] in 127 innings with 14 century stands. Against India they have been together on 25 occasions scoring 1198 runs at an average of almost 48, with five century partnerships.
While numbers show the partnerships and individual performances, they don’t throw light on the delightful way in which they go about building their innings. They hardly appear threatening early in the innings, content at placing the ball between gaps, getting set with a healthy strike rate. Jayawardene is the more fluent of the two, playing along the carpet, while Sangakkara takes the aerial route more frequently in the later part of his innings.
The biggest regret, in recent years, for these senior players would be their inability to convert this momentum to win major tournaments. It may seem harsh to term them chokers, but their results in the recent past leave us without a better description.
Post the retirement of reliable players like Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Jayawardene have taken greater responsibility on themselves to fortify the team’s batting.
The chemistry that Sangakkara and Jayawardene share as good friends off the field has unquestionably helped them bloom while batting together and contribute hugely to Sri Lankan cricket. The pride they carry as ambassadors of Sri Lankan cricket is the support they give captain Angelo Mathews.
Without the added pressures of captaincy, Sangakkara and Jayawardene pose a huge threat for the none-too-impressive Indian bowling attack — even if Dhoni would not like to openly admit it.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new everyday. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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