Kumar Sangakkara (above) got to the milestone in his 130th Test match © Getty Images
Kumar Sangakkara got to the 12,000 run milestone in his 130th Test match © Getty Images

Kumar Sangakkara became the fifth man to complete 12,000 Test runs and has got there faster than anyone else. Sangakkara’s numbers put him in the league of greats. Some of the numbers are superior to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara. Nishad Pai Vaidya unravels the legend of Sangakkara as he begins 2015 with a milestone.

As the clock ticked by and welcomed 2015, Kumar Sangakkara was on the cusp of another milestone. Having started the year five short of 12,000 Test runs, he wasted no time in notching the landmark to welcome 2015. The year 2014 was stellar with runs coming at a torrential rate, not to forget the crowning glory — ICC World T20 2014. Over the last 12 months, the legend of Sangakkara has grown in stature and is well and truly regarded as one of the greats of the modern game.

Sangakkara’s path to greatness was not a given. He was always this graceful, talented match-winner, but was not quite mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara or Ricky Ponting. In fact, teammate and good friend Mahela Jayawardene was often considered the greater of the two. But, one can safely say that Sangakkara has not only shot ahead of his mate but has joined the other legends.

There are numbers to show that Sangakkara well and truly deserves his place amongst the greats. Consider this: Sangakkara is the fastest to 12,000 Test runs, beating Tendulkar, Ponting, Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid. Tendulkar was the fastest to get there before Sangakkara, but took 247 innings compared to Sangakkara’s 224. The Sri Lankan has been the fastest to 8,000, 9,000, 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 Test runs. This truly puts into perspective his greatness.

Perhaps the most significant “Sanga” statistic is his average (69.07 as I write this) when he has been not keeping wickets. It is not a small sample, and accounts for 8,911 career runs as I write this). The number is next to only Don Bradman’s famous 99.94. Put a 3,000-run cut-off, and only Herbert Sutcliffe (60.73) average more as a non-wicketkeeper.

With an average over 58, Sangakkara has maintained that prolific run. What puts him miles ahead of his Sri Lankan counterparts is his overseas performance. He averages over 60 at home, but has also managed to maintain an overseas average over 50. In comparison, Jayawardene managed an overseas average only around the 40s, as to his home number over 60.

It has been a great journey as Sangakkara has shot to greatness from a position where some expected him to retire as one of those “good players.” Think about it! Unlike some of the other great players, he wasn’t exactly a prodigious talent as he only made his debut around 22. By then, Jayawardene was already three years into international cricket. Up until late 2006, his averaged hovered in the 40s and then shot into the high 50s — which is now superior to the corresponding numbers for Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting.

Looking at Sangakkara, one gets the sense that he is in a very similar position as Tendulkar was before the 2011 World Cup. Back in 2010, Tendulkar had a brilliant year and carried that form into the World Cup as India created history. Likewise, Sangakkara has enjoyed 2014 and comes into 2015 with huge promise for the World Cup. Whether he goes on to replicate Tendulkar’s feat is to be seen, but he may avoid the tough run later. Tendulkar struggled to keep form post the 2011 World Cup, but Sangakkara has made the wise choice of walking away from the one-day game. The legend of Sangakkara may be towards its concluding chapter but it could well make a compelling read.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)