Sri Lanka v India 2015
Kumar failed to realise true potential, says father
Retiring champion guilty of giving his wicket away, according to 'harshest critic'
25 August 2015, 03:30 PM AEST
Amid the deafening praise for the retiring Kumar Sangakkara, one voice has jarred with the masses, insisting the Sri Lankan legend “could have done so much better”.
Kshema Sangakkara, father of Kumar and self-confessed “harshest critic” of one of modern cricket’s most decorated batsmen, believes his son’s reputation was somewhat overblown and that, given his talents, he underperformed during his 15 years at the sport’s highest level.
Quick Single: Sangakkara by the numbers
“I have always been his harshest critic, and he knows about it all too well,” Sangakkara Snr wrote in The Indian Express.
“For the world, Kumar was this venerated technician. But in my opinion, he never reached that level. He could have done so much better with the skills he had.
“Everybody speaks about his average being in the same league of Graeme Pollock and Garry Sobers, but Kumar could have done better.
“He too often let bowlers dismiss him rather than them having to get him out.
“For me, Don Bradman was the ultimate batsman. He scored a century once in every three innings. If you truly consider yourself to be a world-class batsman, you should be able to do that.
“Kumar did well, don’t get me wrong. But did he achieve his true potential? I don’t think so.”
Quick Single: Read Sangakkara's farewell speech
Sangakkara, who retired on Monday at the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s second Test against India in Colombo, left the Test arena with 12,400 runs at an average of 57.40 – comfortably the highest of any batsman in the past 40 years.
His 38 Test hundreds are the fourth-most in history, and the most of any Sri Lankan, ahead of long-time teammate and close friend Mahela Jayawardene (34).
Kshema Sangakkara compared his son to Jayawardene, Sri Lanka’s other batting great from the 21st century, insisting the latter in fact had the better technique, despite an inferior albeit outstanding record.
“(Kumar) always had great touch,” he wrote. “You could see that from the way he connects his shots.
“But touch and technique are two totally different concepts.
“According to me, Mahela Jayawardene had a much better technique, and a much tighter defence. Kumar’s temperament and grit is what ensured he scored more runs and averaged more than Mahela.
“But I still believe the likes of Mahela, Marvan (Atapattu) and Aravinda de Silva were more in control of their game in the middle.
“Mahela was lucky in the sense he faced a lot of spin in his early years.
“Kumar never used his feet to the spinners though, and he wasn’t comfortable against them early in his career.
“He did get better at it, but he took too long to get there. It also took a lot of pestering from me, often to his chagrin.
“Even now at times, I feel he gets too leaden-footed.”
Sangakkara will be 38 in October and initially planned to retire at the conclusion of this year’s World Cup, in which he became the first player to score four consecutive ODI hundreds, though he acquiesced when Sri Lanka Cricket requested he play at least some part in Test series against Pakistan and India.
“Leaden-footed” was rarely, if ever a term used to describe the left-hander, whose batting gifts saw him prosper against all comers in all conditions.
An accomplished gloveman, Sangakkara kept wickets in 48 of his 134 Tests, although in the 86 he didn’t, his batting average jumps to an incredible 66.78 with 31 hundreds (one every 2.77 matches).
“There are many batsmen who have been tagged as great,” wrote Sangakkara Snr. “But I consider those who really come into their own after they turn 35 and their reflexes start slowing as the true legends.
“I do agree that Kumar has scored plenty of runs after turning 35. Some say he has hit a purple patch.
“But I wish he had hit that purple patch earlier, he could have easily scored many more runs and tons then.”
During his retirement speech post match, Sangakkara thanked his various coaches, saying “I had so many because my father used to take me to so many coaches when I was young”, before going on to thank his parents and family in general.
“I didn't have to look far for inspiration,” he said. “My parents are here. I didn't have to look far. I had amazing siblings. I am blessed with a wonderful family.
“I was blessed to be born as your children.
“When I look up at the box, people that I've known for 30 years, friends, family, everyone is here and to see that they love me is great and it will be my greatest achievement.”