The widely hated but highly regarded Yorkshire drone of Geoffrey Boycott once said: "the word 'great' is a word used far too much in sport." Whatever his personal history and reputation as a batsman, he could not be more right.
In that 'great' category does not lie Kevin Pietersen for example, whose off-field antics cloud his fantastic ability and performances for England. Plus he has scored nowhere near the same amount of runs as others around him to be considered in the highest regard.
Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Sachin Tendulkar are a few modern day greats who have retired from all forms of cricket in the last ten years. Two Sri Lankans who go by the name of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, best friends and both previous international captains, fit that category of player.
Jayawardene himself has just recently revealed that he will be stepping down from test match cricket but will continue to play the one-day form of the game, especially with the World Cup in Australia and a 50 over series against New Zealand on the agenda.
Both have already retired for Twenty20 cricket following the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh last April, so the pair are most certainly coming to the end of their careers to the sadness of cricket supporters around the world.
26th July, 2006 was the date in which the pair shared that ridiculous 624 run partnership in Colombo. A feat never broken and probably never will.
South Africa were in the driving seat in that game who had their opposition at 14-2. What happened after that, well, not much really. The fall of wickets is a fairly amusing read: 6-1 (Jayasuriya, 1.3 ov), 14-2 (Tharanga, 3.3 ov), 638-3 (Sangakkara, 160.3 ov). The left hander hit 287 in that innings where his colleague scored a massive 374, his biggest ever score.
It is extremely difficult to put into context what these two have done for Sri Lankan and International cricket. They are engraved in the small country's land and have been carrying a nation since their first ever international match together in 2000 in a 45 over match against Pakistan. Sri Lanka won that game, obviously, and that theme became a regular occurrence with these two greats in the side.
Both have shone in all forms of the game however Kumar tips his old friend in most batting categories averaging over 40 in ODIs to Mahela's 32. In tests they both average over 50 but Sangakkara's 58 in eight better than his teammate on 50 exactly.
In the overall standings of career test match runs the two of them are obscenely close to each other, it is almost frightening. Sangakkara has 11767 and Jayawardene has 11726.
The top 4 in that list - Tendulkar, Ponting, Kallis, Dravid - are not realistically going to be caught by the Sri Lankan pair who have all amassed over 13000 runs. Brian Lara is currently in fifth and only 186 runs ahead of Sanga who is not planning on packing it in just yet.
Sachin Tendulkar dominates the One Day charts scoring more runs, hundreds and fifties than anyone else by a very long way. But when talking about Sri Lankan batting in ODIs, there is only one man that needs to be mentioned. Sanath Jayasuriya, the third highest run scorer in history behind only the Indian master and Ricky Ponting.
They are full of record breakers these Sri Lankans. Muttiah Muralitharan has not even been mentioned yet and he has taken more wickets than any other bowler in the history of test and one day cricket (534 in ODIs and 800 in tests).
When he retired in 2011 it was the end of a legend, as it will be when the unbelievable left and right hand batting superpower hang up their boots.
Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are irreplaceable and stalwarts of not only Sri Lankan cricket, but their generation of all professionals cricketers from the late 1990s to present. When cricket is thought of in the sub-continent, these two players are never far behind. They'll be sorely missed when they have gone.
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