As Kumar Sangakkara prepares for his international cricket swansong, accolades are flowing in for the batting legend from his teammates and opponents.
Sangakkara, whose 12,305 runs make him Test cricket's leading scorer among those still playing, is due to retire from international cricket after Sri Lanka’s second Test against India in Colombo, which starts on Thursday.
Captain Angelo Mathews said winning the match – and thus sealing a series victory with one Test left to play – would be the perfect way to see off the “backbone” of their team.
Quick single: Sri Lanka stun India with first Test victory
“He means everything to all of us,” Mathews said, who begged Sangakkara to reconsider his one-day international retirement in March.
“As a person, as a leader and as a player he has been unbelievable to all of us.
“He has been nurturing the younger kids right throughout the system, he helps everyone on and off the field, and he is a real gentleman.
“He has been the backbone of Sri Lanka cricket, along with Mahela (Jayawardene) for so many years and I’ve been truly proud to play with him and to share a dressing room.
“The best thing we could do is win the series for him.”
Sangakkara celebrates 200 against New Zealand in January // Getty Images
Batting feats aside, Sangakkara also holds a reputation as one of the game’s true gentlemen, and India captain Virat Kohli said he would remember the veteran batsman as a “lovely human being”.
“I can imagine the kind of emotions he might feel because (playing cricket) is something that he has probably done for the last 20 years, day in and day out,” Kohli said.
“He has been a wonderful player for Sri Lanka. A lot of left-handers really look up to him for the way he plays.
“His technique and the way he has scored runs all over the world, his numbers speak for themselves.
“I am actually glad that he is going to be playing his last few games against us because it is a special occasion for us to be a part of.”
India team director Ravi Shastri said the Sri Lankan great could be compared to Sir Donald Bradman, and recalled watching Sangakkara on debut in 2000.
“I was commentating on that game when he played and he is still around,” Shastri said.
“There might have been a one year or a six-month period where his form might have dipped. But otherwise, for sheer consistency, he is unmatched.
“There are very few players who fall in that list. You can bring Sachin Tendulkar in that league as the kind of player that once broke into the top two or three never moved out of there. Sangakkara’s record shows you that.
“He is equal with Sir Donald Bradman.”
Sangakkara’s retirement will leave a massive hole in the Sri Lanka team, as he follows in the footsteps of teammate Mahela Jayawardene who bid farewell to international cricket after Sri Lanka's World Cup exit in March.
Kumar and Mahela in 2004 // Getty Images
“I don’t think both Sanga and Mahela have got the accolades they should have got,” Shastri said.
When confirming his retirement in June, Sangakkara said he would only play two of the three Tests against India.
Quick single: Sangakkara confirms Test retirement
He also missed the third Test of Sri Lanka’s series against Pakistan in June.
"I wanted to retire after the World Cup, but was requested by the selectors to stay on. I agreed to play four more Tests," Sangakkara said at the time.