Kumar Sangakkara is the overwhelming fans' favourite for the crown of cricket.com.au One-Day International Greatest of All Time after an exhaustive online polling process.
Sangakkara's highly motivated and extremely passionate supporters delivered the title to the Sri Lankan star, who received more votes than India's Sachin Tendulkar in the final.
Thank you humbly to all the fans who voted for me as the ODI GOAT. To be voted for among many players far better than myself is an honor
— Kumar Sangakkara (@KumarSanga2) May 18, 2016
Sangakkara's prowess in one-day cricket is proven. He scored 14,234 runs in 404 matches, averaging 41.98 with 25 centuries to his name.
While his batting was his chief contribution – only Tendulkar has more ODI runs – he was also a worthy gloveman, and kept wickets with aplomb to Muthiah Muralidaran, to claim 482 dismissals behind the stumps.
After 40 days and millions of votes, Sangakkara and Tendulkar rose above a cavalcade of the world's greatest ODI players to be considered the top two by the voting audience.
The ODI GOAT was run as a bracketed head-to-head knockout competition, similar to a grand slam tennis draw. It started with 64 one-day players, as selected by the cricket.com.au editorial team, and was loosely grouped into batsmen, bowlers, and allrounders/wicketkeepers.
The match-ups presented fans with difficult choices throughout – it was no easy task to split Michael Hussey and Michael Bevan in the first round – while others crossed generations and required more consideration than just the bare stats.
In some instances the modern player won out, their talent too good to ignore in an evolving game, such as the triumph of Chris Gayle over fellow West Indian powerhouse Desmond Haynes. While in others, the weight of history and a legendary career prevailed against the exploits of a modern marvel – such as Wasim Akram's overwhelming support ahead of Mitchell Starc.
Throughout the voting process, social media was abuzz with the daily #ODIGOAT match-ups. Passionate fans were voting, sharing and tagging their friends and returning to cricket.com.au over and over and over again to ensure the player they viewed as the greatest progressed in the competition.
Sangakkara's title owes much to this style of voting. The Sri Lankan – and global – supporters of Sangakkara pushed their man past MS Dhoni, Adam Gilchrist and AB de Villiers among glovemen – all exceptional one-day players in their own rights. In the quarter-finals he advanced past Australia's legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne and then was more popular than Pakistan icon Imran Khan.
Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps the most famous cricketer to have ever lived, sailed past Rohit Sharma in the first round and, after an early tussle, breezed past Saeed Anwar in the second and then Australia's Michael Bevan.
Tendulkar's task suddenly got a whole lot harder. A quarter-final match that many might argue would have been a worthy final: Sachin Tendulkar v Sir Vivian Richards, India's Little Master up against the West Indies' original Master Blaster.
Debate was fierce, arguments reasoned, torn down and argued again. Statistics were analysed and fans grappled with how to weigh up the intangible X-factor quality that each carried that allowed them to dominate the game as it was in their respective generations before finally casting their vote.
This was perhaps the most fiercely contested match-up between fans. Ultimately, Tendulkar advanced, and none could say he did not deserve it.
He faced a semi-final against Sanath Jayasuriya, another beneficiary of zealous support. Jayasuriya was swept aside for Tendulkar to reach the final, where the rally cries and impassioned pleas for votes for Sangakkara proved the difference.
Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)
The numbers: Matches: 404 | Runs: 14,234 | Average: 41.98 | SR: 78.86 | 100s: 25 | HS: 169 | Dis: 501 | C: 402 (19 in field) | St: 99
#ODIGOAT Voting: Sangakkara faced a tough match-up in the first round in India's World Cup winning captain MS Dhoni but was the overwhelmingly popular vote to go through to the final 32. Next, he knocked off Australian legend Adam Gilchrist, claiming 60 per cent of the vote, before ousting South Africa superstar AB de Villiers in the round of 16. In the quarters, Sangakkara dispensed with another Aussie great, Shane Keith Warne, and he overcame Pakistan's 1992 World Cup winning captain Imran Khan in the semi-finals.
Why he makes the list: Kumar Sangakkara's ODI career had been incredible enough, but the manner in which he finished it off at last year's World Cup was something else. Sri Lanka didn't get their hands on the trophy they won in '96, so there was no fairytale, but Sangakkara's personal contribution was a triumph – a history-making four straight hundreds through the tournament. It was a classic sign-off from a classical player; a silky left-hander who was too much for even the world's best attacks when he got going. And that was regularly. Sangakkara began his ODI life as a bustling keeper with a fondness for chatter behind the stumps, slotting into the middle order and immediately producing quality contributions. His batting genius quickly became his chief form of contribution (notwithstanding the 482 dismissals behind the stumps), as he was promoted to No.3 and began churning out hundreds for fun. By the end of World Cup 2015, only Sachin Tendulkar had more ODI runs.
Performance we loved: Among those four World Cup hundreds in succession was a magical effort in Sangakkara's final match against Australia. Chasing an improbable 377 to win, it was clear that Sri Lanka's hopes rested on the genius of the pugnacious left-hander. He was at the crease in the second over, receiving an incredible ovation from a strong contingent of his countrymen among the SCG crowd, and set about his work. Taking on the form bowler of the tournament, Mitchell Starc, and some extreme pace also from Mitchell Johnson, Sangakkara resorted to his textbook strokes – with the occasional flashy ramp – and continued building his score, fellow veteran Tillakaratne Dilshan in tow. While ever he was at the crease, the crowd had reason to believe, and he appeared to feed off their energy, moving to another fabulous hundred in even time. Just as a miracle appeared a distinct possibility, he was gone; but in the process he'd left his adoring Australia-based fans with one final reminder of his brilliance.
Sachin Tendulkar (India)
The numbers: Matches: 463 | Runs: 18,426 | Average: 44.83 | SR: 86.23 | 100s: 49 | HS: 200no
#ODIGOAT voting: Taking on compatriot Rohit Sharma in round one, the Little Master produced yet another fine innings, collecting 89 per cent of the vote. He was then the winner of a one-sided clash with Pakistani Saeed Anwar, taking 93 per cent of votes after trending on Twitter in the subcontinent during the poll, and emerged victorious over Aussie ODI legend Michael Bevan with 57 per cent of votes in the round of 16. His toughest match-up - and what some could argue would have been a worthy final - Sachin faced off against West Indies Master Blaster Viv Richards. Sachin emerged victorious in an even-haded and fair contest that went to the wire with 53 per cent of the vote. In the semi-final, he came up against Sri Lankan great Sanath Jayasuriya, eventually winning out amid hundreds of thousands of votes.
Why he makes the list: Because he's Sachin, and excluding 'The Little Master' from the top 64 ODI players of all time would be like discussing relativity without Einstein. Tendulkar took his first short, confident strides to the middle as a 16-year-old in 1989 and for the next 22 years or so it felt like he scarcely left the middle. Throughout, he retained his boyish appearance, exacerbated by his oversized pads and railway sleeper of a bat that he swung with a precision that matched his footwork. The right-hander was technically adroit, unerringly patient, wholeheartedly ruthless and perhaps more than anything, possessed an insatiable appetite for scoring runs. He did that better, and more regularly, than anyone to have played ODI cricket, as the 4000-plus gap he has on his nearest rival on the 'most ODI runs' list attests. He fell one short of 50 ODI centuries, but fittingly became the first man to score 200 in an ODI. His record-breaking, feted career was capped off with a World Cup triumph on home soil in 2011.
Performance we loved: The 1998 version of Tendulkar was perhaps the most devastating of all; the Little Master had found his place at the top of the batting order, had benefited from lessons learned through almost a decade on the international scene, but still retained a youthful exuberance. Two days before his 25th birthday he made a blistering 143 against Australia in Sharjah, hammering five sixes and nine fours in what was ultimately a losing run chase. He made up for the defeat two days later, when he celebrated his quarter-century with a repeat act, this time in the final. Chasing 273 to win, Tendulkar picked up where he'd left off 48 hours earlier, flaying an Australian attack that must have been sick of the sight of him for another 134 from 131 balls. Across two innings, Tendulkar had provided an unrestrained celebration of subcontinental batting, and proof positive that, when in the mood, no-one on the planet could match him.
#ODIGOAT First Round
Tendulkar v Sharma | Akram v Starc | Garner v Donald | Richards v de Silva | Azharuddin v Miandad | Dev v Vettori | Lloyd v Border | Jones v Clarke | Waqar v Johnson | Warne v Kumble | Hooper v S. Waugh | Imran v Hadlee | Lee v Akhtar | M. Waugh v Jayasuriya | De Villiers v Boucher | Lara v Amla | Gilchrist v McCullum | Gayle v Haynes | McGrath v Pollock | Anwar v Ganguly | Sehwag v Greenidge | Ponting v Gibbs | Dhoni v Sangakkara | Inzamam v Kallis | Murali v Hogg | Bond v Ambrose | Malinga v Vaas | Kohli v Pietersen | Symonds v Klusener | Afridi v Saqlain | Bevan v Hussey | Dilshan v Jayawardena
#ODIGOAT Second Round
Shoaib v Waqar | Jayasuriya v S. Waugh | Ambrose v Vaas | Miandad v Lara | Warne v Dev | Border v Inzamam | Gilchrist v Sangakkara | Richards v Jaywardena | Wasim v Garner | Ponting v Clarke | McGrath v Imran | Tendulkar v Anwar | Bevan v Sehwag | Symonds v De Villiers | Muralidaran v Afridi | Kohli v Gayle
#ODIGOAT Third Round