Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sangakkara and Jayawardene: The Last Great Batsmen

There was almost an inevitability about Kumar Sangakkara's 52 not out in the T20 World Cup final. Up until the final, Sangakkara had had a poor tournament, scoring only 19 runs and looking like a man short of form. An average batsman can go through a major tournament and not score any runs but not a great one.

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara
Sangakkara and his best friend Mahela Jayawardene most definitely fall into the category of great. Both have wonderful records in Test matches, ODI's and T20's. No mean feat in the congested schedules of modern international cricket. You always feel that both men have an great innings in them when a tour or tournament comes around.

It seems that this T20 World Cup marks the beginning of the end for both Sangakkara and Jayawardene's careers. Both retired from the format on Sunday, leaving it to younger men like Angelo Mathews to take Sri Lanka forward. In cricket, when a player calls time on one form of the game, the other forms aren't far behind. Both men are 36 and unlikely to play Test matches and ODI's for much longer.

Their retirements will mark the end of this era of cricket as they are the last of the truly great batsman around. Several have retired in the past few months, Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith. Ricky Ponting beat them all to it, retiring in 2012. Their will be no great batsman left and it is a struggle to find the men who will replace them at the top of the batting charts.

One name mentioned by many as a possible great batsman is Virat Kohli, especially after his 73 in Sunday's final. He certainly seems to have all the skills necessary to become a great although he will need to improve on a fairly modest test record.

AB De Villiers is another batsman who many regard as a possible great batsman. His stats certainly don't lie ( he currently averages nearly 52 in test cricket) and like Kohli, he is strong in all forms of the game. However, De Villiers path to greatness could be blocked by the South African test captaincy. Since Graeme Smith retired, De Villiers has been the odds on favourite to take over. If, as expected, he takes on the captaincy, it is unknown how the pressure of the job will affect his batting.

There are others who have been touted as greats but they to have questions marks against them. Alistair Cook has been scoring runs for England for years but is currently out of form and struggling with captaining the England team. Michael Clarke has been fantastic for Australia since taking on the test captaincy but he continues to struggle with back problems and it is unknown whether those problems are getting better or worse.

Other younger batsman also have great ability, like Joe Root, Shikhar Dhawan and Darren Bravo. However, their careers are still in there infancy so are difficult to predict.

It maybe that the era of Ponting, Tendulkar, Sangakkara and Jayawardene will be seen as an especially great one for batsman. An era where so many wonderful batsman flourished.

Both Sangakkara and Jayawardene will travel to England for a test series in June. English fans should make the most of them because it maybe a while before we see the next great batsmen emerging.