Mahinda Wijesinghe, courtesy of The Island, 2 October 2017, where the title is “A statistical comparison of two cricketing icons”
Statistics can be misleading. Some use it to their own advantage, just as a drunkard leans against the lamppost – not for illumination but for support.
For instance on many an occasion some members of the media have attempted to compare the statistics of some outstanding modern-day batsmen with that of the legendary Bradman. When such writers were “leaning against the lamppost for support” the self-same modern-day batsmen merely scoffed at such futile efforts. Naturally, the statistics of the best batsmen are way behind the Test figures Bradman churned out almost 70 years ago and still remain unchallenged. During his era ODIs were not thought of, and baseball cricket – a better name for T20 – was still in the womb of cricket marketers.
If some patriotic writer claims that such-and-such batsman has scored X number of centuries or has aggregated Y runs more than Bradman, the first thing to check is the number of innings The Don has batted, secondly the type of opposition he played against and finally one must remember the Australian icon always batted on uncovered pitches with a bat and not a bludgeon sometimes weighing 3 lbs plus.
However, without being patriotic, by comparing the last first-class season – for Surrey against the other English counties by the Sri Lankan left-hander Sangakkara and pitting the same figures by Bradman in 1948 makes for fascinating study. Remember it is ONLY statistically and naught else.
Bradman ended the 1948 season touring England whilst skippering Australia aged 40 years. Sangakkara, whilst playing in England for Surrey will be reaching his 40th year very shortly. The Sri Lankan aggregated 1,445 runs at an average of 103 while The Don, in his last season, against the Counties scored 1,504 runs at a modest average of almost 80 runs. Remember, The Don scored a further 499 runs in four Tests at an average of a tad over 70 runs. All in all a total of over 2,000 runs!
Both Bradman and Sangakkara scored eight centuries against County teams.
Of course one must also take into account that skipper Bradman’s responsibilities must have weighed heavily on his mind, eg. to remain as the first unbeaten Australian to tour England, was one of main concerns, while the Sri Lankan had no such worries. Despite all of that Bradman led the ‘Invincibles’, as they were dubbed, and won 72 per cent of their matches while two other famous teams, Armstrong’s 1921 side won 58 per cent and Darling’s 59 per cent won their games. They were not unbeaten either.
At the end of their unbeaten 1948 tour – the first Australian tour to achieve this feat – the team was felicitated by all and sundry including a farewell luncheon at the prestigious Savoy Hotel in honour of Bradman. The People newspaper inaugurated the ‘Bradman Fund’ where subscriptions from the general public were limited to a shilling each, and from the proceeds it was decided to present him with a replica of the famous Warwick Vase suitably engraved. When attempts were made to present the excess monies thus collected back to Bradman, he returned the monies and asked the organisers to prepare cement pitches across the country to assist budding batsmen.
Finally, the British Minister of State, Philip Noel-Baker wrote, inter alia, from his office at Downing Street: “No team from Australia has had such an unbroken and astonishing measure of cricket success … no team had ever done so much to stimulate and create good feeling … Both the United Kingdom and Australia owe you a real debt of gratitude … ” This was a spontaneous tribute from the highest levels of the UK government.
Probably the county of Surrey too must be nursing similar sentiments towards Sangakkara. No wonder the county awarded him the supreme honour of making him an Honorary Life Member. In addition he carried away a basketful of honours: the Members’ Player of the Year, Sylvester Clarke Large Rum Moment, Kia Batsman of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year gongs. There could not have been any more prizes/awards for him to win! Little wonder he was sometimes referred to as ‘King’ Kumar in Surrey while 33 years ago when Sidath Wettimuny charmed England and the world with a scintillating 190 runs at Lord’s. The right-handed opener who made the highest Test score at Lord’s earned the sobriquet of ‘Lord Sid’.
On top of that, the 39-year-old Sri Lankan who always maintained: “I am today, and always, proudly Sri Lankan’. Surrey Chairman Richard Thompson delivered a rousing speech that left Surrey members reflecting on the three years the batsman had spent with the club. That was the cream on the cake.
The honours and the services Sangakkara has brought to Sri Lanka during the 15 years he played for the country, both on and off the field, should be left to a competent biographer to chronicle for posterity.
Indeed it is a sad commentary of our times that Kumar Sangakkara’s reputation, knowledge, and skills are not being used to uplift our cricket which is languishing in the doldrums. While, on the other hand, Bradman and his services to the game, especially after he retired, was as legendary as his services as a player.