Image courtesy of: Zimbio
Kumar Sangakkara is arguably the best wicketkeeper-batsman Sri Lanka ever produced, but while he is one of the greatest players of the modern era, the 39-year-old revealed the one bowler that caused him the most problems while he was at the crease.
Sangakkara, who has 12,400 Test runs, 14,234 ODI runs and 1,382 Twenty20 International runs to his name, admitted that legendary Pakistan left-arm seamer Wasim Akram was at the top of the list when it came to bowlers that gave him the most trouble.
Despite only facing Akram in nine ODIs, Sangakkara was dismissed by the 50-year-old on three occasions, all of which came in 2002. With that in mind, Sangakkara had no hesitation in saying that the ‘Sultan of Swing’ was “an absolute genius” when he had the ball in his hands.
“I think I’ve faced Wasim Akram only a few times (but he was) immensely difficult,” he said on the Howie Games podcast. “It’s strange you know, when you pick your bowlers or the people think, if you take Akram on the Test wicket tally, he’s nowhere near the top.
“He’s 12th, but you ask any batsman around the world and his name always comes up. He was an absolute genius.”
Besides Akram, Sangakkara added Australia spin king Shane Warne, India’s Zaheer Khan and the England duo of Graeme Swann and James Anderson to the list of the toughest bowlers he faced in his illustrious career.
“I’ve never faced Murali, luckily, in international cricket, or Chaminda Vaas,” he said. “Shane Warne, incredibly difficult.
“I’ve had problems with Zaheer Khan. Graeme Swann. These bowlers have been very, very difficult.
“Even though Jimmy Anderson has probably got me out many times more, I would rate the others as people I really worried about.”
As for the best batsmen he had ever seen, Sangakkara named the West Indian duo of Viv Richards and Brian Lara.
He also conceded it was a shame that compatriot Aravinda de Silva did not go on to have a much more fruitful career.
“Sir Vivian Richards when I was growing up, then along comes Brian Lara,” he said. “Watching Brian bat was an absolute privilege.
“Aravinda de Silva, he was incredible to watch. If he had been born a few years later he might not have had a World Cup but we would have had a guy who would have been in the top five all-time batsmen list, easy.
“Because I think after 1996 the attitude of Sri Lanka changed, we were pushing for more hundreds, more wins. He was dropped for two years …. and I remember he came up to me one day after he had just got back in the side, and we were talking about something and he said to me, ‘if I had played the last two years I would have scored another 20 hundreds with one eye closed’.
“And I believe him, because I know what he can do. He was not joking. He was deadly serious. To me he’s an extremely special player.”