Kumar Sangakkara © Getty Images
Kumar Sangakkara’s cover drive is one of cricket’s most beautiful sights © Getty Images

Kumar Sangakkara will make the final international appearance of his 15-year long career during Sri Lanka’s second Test against India at the P Sara Oval in Colombo. It will be an emotional time for Sri Lankan fans, and also for most cricket lovers the world over. Sangakkara’s legacy will go beyond the 28,000 runs he scored in international cricket; the manner in which he scored those runs is perhaps more unforgettable. One shot in particular will forever be etched in the memory of fans is his cover drive. Shiamak Unwalla writes about the shot that made Sangakkara such a delight to watch. READ: Kumar Sangakkara: Sri Lanka’s all time great

All great cricketers have that one shot that looks less like an effort and more like an extension of their being: Sachin Tendulkar’s straight drive; Ricky Ponting’s pull and hook; Brian Lara’s slice through cover; Rahul Dravid’s forward defence. For Kumar Sangakkara, it is the cover drive. Few batsmen ever looked more attractive than while playing a perfectly executed drive through cover, but Sangakkara transcended them all. READ: Sachin Tendulkar pays tribute to Kumar Sangakkara

John Keats famously wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness…” His lines could well have been about Sangakkara’s cover drive. When playing his trademark cover drive, Sangakkara did not merely hit the ball; he somehow simultaneously thrashed and caressed the ball with the cold efficiency of a hitman and the soft tenderness of a renaissance artist. No matter the bowler or the pitch, if Sangakkara was in his zone the ball would dash to the boundary more often than not. READ: KL Rahul offers India potential solution to No. 3 crisis with ton against Sri Lanka in 2nd Test

What stood out about Sangakkara’s cover drive was his balance. Sangakkara was equally capable of playing the shot while resting partially on his back foot, or off the tips of his toes, or in the more conventional manner off the front foot. If the ball was close to the stumps he would play caress it with a straighter bat. If there was a bit of width, the bat came down almost horizontally; but never was he not in complete control. The bat always started from just under his shoulder, and usually ended well above his head, but the ball rarely went more than a few inches above the ground. READ: Rangana Herath: An ode to the rotund banker

A perfectly executed Sangakkara cover-drive truly is a thing of beauty. The cricketing world will be poorer to never watch it again after this Test, but the memory of that pristine batting artistry will forever resonate in the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to have watched it live. They say Wally Hammond had an imperious cover drive, but if it was better than Sangakkara’s, it must have been outrageously good. READ: Dinesh Chandimal’s battling unbeaten 162 could be a career-defining innings

Thank you, Sanga, for all the memories.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)