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Kumar-Mahela: The End Of A Legendary Partnership

02/04/2015 8:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI via Getty Images
Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara (R) congratulates teammate Mahela Jayawardene (L) after winning the second Test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) Ground in Colombo on August 18, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Legends are born once ...not every day, so the saying goes. However, legends must retire too. Sri Lanka's reigning batting champions, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, have played together for almost 15 years and tasted victory many times, but it is the end of an era and the selectors have a hard job ahead of them.

Much as Sachin-Sourav or Hayden-Gilchrist, Kumar-Mahela were almost a single force unto themselves. As the stars of Sri Lanka's batting line-up for more than a decade, the fans relied on them and the competition feared them.

Best friends who were schoolboy rivals before making their international debuts, together they have batted 293 times in international cricket, piling up a mammoth 13,368 runs, more than any other duo in cricketing history and ahead of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly by 12,400 runs. Both have also captained the team.

Impressive records and memorable performances have punctuated their career innings. Who can forget the marathon world record partnership in 2006 in Colombo, where the pair put on a stand of 624 runs, Jayawardene contributing 374 and Sangakkara 287.

Mahela Jayawardene made his debut way back in 1997, and is correctly described as "a prolific, elegant and utterly classy batsman with a huge appetite for runs." Blessed with excellent hand-eye coordination and a fine technique, Jayawardene went on to become country's best middle order and his generation's most elegant batsman. His languid cover-drives and wristy flick off his legs, his late cuts on spinner, he played every shot with panache. In one-day internationals he scored a massive 12,650 runs and in five-day games he amassed 11,814 runs with 34 centuries. Jayawardene also grew into an astute captain and led Sri Lanka to many victories, including the 2007 Cricket World Finals, which the Lankans lost to Australia.

His on-field better half Kumar Sangakkara was more than just a batsman -- he was a wicket-keeper who had replaced Sri Lanka's finest yet, Romesh Kaluwitharana. Though Sangakkara notched up more than 600 dismissals as a wicket keeper, it was his majestic batting that made him most remarkable. One of the finest and most polished left-handed batsmen, often compared with the likes of Sobers and Lara, Kumar Sangakkara had every stroke in his kitty. He is the second highest run-getter in ODIs behind Sachin Tendulkar with 14,234 runs. A successful captain as well, Sangakkara led Sri Lanka for a long time and saw the team to victory many times.

The pair collectively scored 44 ODI centuries and 170 half-centuries, establishing their dominance in the game. In three previous World Cup appearances together (in 2003, 2007 and 2011), they saw Sri Lanka to a semi-final and two finals. The pair tasted a World Cup victory in the shorter version of the game, when Sri Lanka won the twenty-over World Cup against India in 2014.

The duo have called it quits after Sri Lanka failed to make it to the World Cup semi-finals. Jayawardene's international career has seen its last, while Sangakkara will don the white kit for Sri Lanka one more time when the islanders will play a test series in July-August. Sangakkara, who like a fine wine was getting better with age, was in sublime form in the 2015 World Cup with four back to back centuries. It was unfortunate to see him bow out without playing another final.

However, with 11 double centuries in test, just one behind Sir Don Bradman, he may yet end his international career with the flair we have come to expect from him. Both Sangakkara and Jayawardene will continue to play domestic leagues all over the world. Sri Lanka might produce outstanding players in the coming years, but it's doubtful that they will be blessed with two greats at the same time.

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