Two different countries. Two different continents. Two different test matches beginning on 20th of August 2015 will mark the end of two glorious careers. One personified solidity with the bat and the other the typical aggressive Aussie attitude. Kumar Sangakkara will wear Sri Lankan jersey one last time at Colombo while Michael Clarke will lead his Aussie side for the final time at the Oval.
Both have been colossal names in cricket over the last decade or so. Clarke’s career saw highs like two World Cup victories, two Ashes whitewashes, captaining Australia to the zenith in test cricket and lows like being part five Ashes defeats. Sanga career countersigned five World Cup finals, a World T20 win, a world record partnership and frequent protests with the Sri Lanka Cricket Board.
Let us see in numbers how the two modern day giants fared in their glittering career with one test to go.
Career split up
|Debut – Apr 2004||36||59||2398||230||43.6||51.06||4/13|
|May 2004 – Dec 2007||35||57||3634||287||69.88||59.96||12/11|
|Jan 2008 – Dec 2009||17||31||1517||144||50.56||53.45||5/8|
|Jan 2010 – Dec 2012||27||49||2496||219||58.04||49.3||9/9|
|Since Dec 2012||18||35||2305||319||67.79||55.93||8/11|
Sanga made his test debut against South Africa at Galle in July 2000 and he did take some time to find his feet in test cricket. In his first four years, keeping the wickets in most of those games, he averaged a healthy 43 and mostly playing support fiddle with Mahela, Jayasuriya, Aravinda and Atapattu. In the second quarter of his career during the age 27 to 30 – a time considered the cream of one’s test career, Sanga averaged nearly 70. He scored 12 hundreds in this period compared to four in the previous quarter in two innings lesser. Then came a comparatively quiet couple of years by his hefty standards where he averaged just above 50. Despite most of the matches played in the slow and low tracks in Asia and the Caribbean, surprisingly daddy hundreds deserted him during this period (his highest score being 144). Next came three glorious years where he also bore the burden of captaincy. He averaged 58 with nine hundreds. His most glorious years came at the twilight of his career. He was exceptional since January 2013 averaging 67, easily the highest for anyone with more than 500 runs during the time. He scored fifties in seven consecutive innings and hundreds on three consecutive innings twice. His career best 319 also came during this phase.
|Debut – Dec 2005||20||31||1072||151||36.96||54.94||2/4|
|Jan 2006 – Dec 2009||36||60||2854||145*||57.08||52.61||10/13|
|Jan 2010 – Dec 2011||21||37||1389||168||37.54||54.49||5/4|
|Jan 2012 – Dec 2013||24||44||2688||329*||70.73||61.7||9/6|
|Since Dec 2013||13||25||625||161*||29.76||54.48||2/0|
Unlike a more consistent Sanga, Clarke had some his crests and troughs in his career. Apart from his test hundreds on debut tests – home and away – he failed to score big during his initial couple of years. Then came some fruitful years which coincided with 16 consecutive test wins for Australia. He started the next phase of his career with two hundreds in first three innings and ended with a century each in his first series as full time captain. But in between he struggled having an overall average of just 37. The trough was followed by the best two years of his career. He started 2012 with a triple century against India at SCG which was followed with three more double centuries the same year. He scored 1595 runs in 2012 at a Bradmanesque 106.33. In a largely disappointing 2013 for Australia where they lost series in India and England, Clarke stood ahead from his contemporaries. The chronic back injury kept creeping on him and consistency deserted him in his twilight years. He scored only 625 runs in his last two years culminating in his retirement. He scored a match winning unbeaten 161 against South Africa at Cape Town, widely regarded as his best ever.
From January 2006, Sanga (8528 runs) and Clarke (7556) are second and third in the list of run getters topped by Alistair Cook (9223), helped by the fact that England plays more tests than anyone. Sanga leads the hundreds list with 30 in 80 tests followed by Cook (27 in 118) and Clarke (26 in 94).
Best batsmen since Jan 2006
|AB de Villiers||85||139||6490||278*||52.33||54.44||18/30|
Sanga has batted at #3 position for the majority of his career – 205 of his 231 innings to be precise. Among batsmen with 4000+ runs at #3, Sanga’s average of 61.20 is second only to Bradman’s 103. 37 of his 38 hundreds came while batting at #3. His 11629 runs at #3 is well ahead of other specialist #3 batsmen Ponting and Dravid.
Clarke has started at #6 and soon moved to #5, a position which made his own since. Clarke scored 5959 runs in 110 innings at #5 at an average of 60.80, second best for anyone with a minimum of 2000 runs behind AB de Villiers (63.82 in 66 innings).
He had his tryst with #4 position twice. During his first tenancy at #4 between March 2010 and November 2011, he averaged 22.14 in 21 innings there with three fifties and a highest score of 80. At the same time, his six innings at #5 position brought him three hundreds and a fifty. Ricky Ponting’s poor run made him demote to #4 from his customary #3 positon thereby pushing Clarke back to his original #5 slot. Clarke’s average rose to 70 during the two years at #5. The retirement of Michael Hussey and Ponting in quick succession meant Clarke moving up the order. His second tenancy at #4 saw him perform better with an average of 39.33 from 34 innings with 5 hundreds, still daylight behind his best days.
|#4||Mar 2010 – Nov 2011||12||21||465||80||22.14||49.2||0/3|
|Since Jan 2013||20||34||1180||187||39.33||55.68||5/1|
|#5||Dec 2006 – Mar 2010||35||55||2961||168||61.68||52.9||11/13|
|Jan 2012 – Dec 2013||16||24||1938||329*||96.9||63.35||6/4|
Sanga averaged above 40 against all teams he played against – a record not many players hold barring the impeccable Sachin Tendulkar and the great Ricky Ponting. Every great player despised playing one particular opposition – it was India for Lara, Sri Lanka for Kallis, Australia for Jayawardene and South Africa for Dravid. Sanga was Bradmanesque against the minnows averaging just above 94 in the 20 tests against them. In the 114 tests excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Sanga averaged a more-than-healthy 52.89. He cherished touring Oceania averaging 60.33 in Australia and 61.08 in New Zealand, much higher than his home average aginst the two oppositions. He struggled in India (36.5 in 6 tests), South Africa (35.75 in 8) and West Indies (34 in 4). He reached three figures at least once in all the countries he played in except West Indies where he last played in 2008.
Clarke just played two tests against Bangladesh scoring 51 in three innings and none against Zimbabwe (Australia last played Zimbabwe in October 2003). One team Clarke struggled playing was Pakistan against whom he averaged 33 in 10 tests. Clarke averaged 41.22 against arch rivals England in 34 tests – with astonishingly similar 41.08 in 15 home tests and 41.32 in 19 away tests. Clarke feasted on Indian bowlers averaging nearly 54 in 22 tests but his average fell to 40 while playing in India and rose to 76 while playing India at home. Similarly against South Africa he averaged 67 – his highest against a particular opposition – with a home away record of 106 to 40. In fact, Clarke averages between 39.54 and 41.32 while playing against teams outside his home continent at their home, perhaps a difference between a very good player and a great player.
# Clarke has not played home tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
# The four tests against Pakistan were played at neutral venues (two each in UK and UAE).
Though it is well acknowledged Sanga is a very good reader of the game, he is mostly regarded tactically inferior to his successors Mahela Jayawardene and Arjuna Ranatunga. Despite his average of 69.6 is the third best for a captain after Don Bradman’s 101.51 and Angelo Mathews’ 70.25. It is also the second best among the 13 Sri Lankan captains after Mathews. Clarke on the other hand is widely regarded as a genius tactically in the league of Mark Taylor. His 3931 runs as captain is the eighth best overall. Of his 15 series as captain he scored at least a hundred in 11 of them including 10 in the first 11. He missed out twice in West Indies, once in UAE and is yet to reach the three figure mark in the current Ashes series with one match to go. Clarke has scored four double centuries as captain and is second only to Brian Lara’s five.
Clarke’s problems against spin bowling has been coherently described by Aakash Chopra in one of his recent articles. He had his issues against left arm spinners. In his six innings against India in 2013, he was dismissed by Ravindra Jadeja on five occasions. Among the bowlers who have dismissed him four or more times there are four left arm spinners including Jadeja (others being Daniel Vettori, Paul Harris and Rangana Herath with four dismissals each). His overall average against left arm spinners is 42.03 but it drops to 18.57 in Asia. Against spinners overall he averages 66.86 but is steeply falls to 34.84 in the sub-continent. The bowlers dismissing him most are all right arm pacers with Stuart Broad leading the list with 11 closely followed by James Anderson and Dale Steyn with nine each.
Unlike Clarke, Sanga didn’t have any particular type of bowling which troubled him consistently – hallmark of his all-round batting skills. Among the batsmen from sub-continent teams with 2000+ runs, Sanga’s average of 47.57 is the fourth best behind the Indian trio of Dravid (54.48), Gavaskar (51.57) and Tendulkar (50.37). Sanga’s overall average against pace is 55 and spin is 68 with both falling to respectable 45 and 53 respectively outside the sub-continent. The bowlers which troubled him the most were Anderson (7 dismissals at 28.14) and Zaheer Khan (6 dismissals at 27).
Test cricket is definitely going to get poorer with these two modern masters slipping away to darkness. Both of them have enthralled us with their scintillating stroke play, aggressive captaincy and many unforgettable movements. Be it his electric 151 on test debut or gritty 161 at Cape Town for Clarke and outstanding 192 at Hobart or 203 against New Zealand earlier this year for Sanga, the cricket fraternity is going to miss both the legends.
** All stats updated till the start of the Colombo test and the Oval test