Humble Sangakkara takes final bow at the Oval

Humble Sangakkara takes final bow at the Oval

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Kumar Sangakkara had an excellent season for Surrey © Luke Adams

As Kumar Sangakkara strode from the pitch at The Oval for the final time, the crowd, some 1,000 strong spread across this vast venue, rose to their feet and rapturously applauded the man known as King.

It was simultaneous with the entire Somerset team, led by seasoned professional Marcus Trescothick, running to Sangakkara to shake his hand before he departed, bat and helmet raised aloft to acknowledge those privileged enough to see his last home innings.

And this has, indeed, become a home for him. The backroom staff, determined to get him to South London and keep him here, went “out of their way just to make me feel at home,” accommodating him and his family as he needed.

“I’m just happy I can repay them in some form with some performances but it’s an amazing place. It’s a place that will be very dear to me for the rest of my life.”

His time here has been proficient, but never so much as it has been in 2017: he leads the runs in the Specsavers County Championship, in both divisions, by nearly 300 runs, averages 110.92, and boasts eight hundreds, the most in a Championship season since 2009. Coincidentally, that record was Trescothick’s.

And yet, humble as he is, the response from all around him as he walked from the field did little to sway him in refusing to decide how he’s remembered.

“That’s not really up to me, I think. A lot of people who watch this game don’t really know me,” he said, before citing his family members, close friends and, he hopes, his Surrey teammates. “How I’m remembered is going to be up to others.”

It is easy to guess how he might be remembered, especially in these parts. The talent he has displayed in three memorable years is second to none, and the knowledge he has imparted on his younger colleagues may be paramount in their development.

Still, Sangakkara remains humble. “I always laugh when a lot of people ask me what [the] youngsters [have] learnt from me. It’s amazing that I’ve learnt more from being around this group of players than they’ll ever learn from me and I’m very, very grateful for that.”

A couple of those players, Ben Foakes and Ollie Pope, were in the middle after Sangakkara was out for the final time here, as Surrey claimed only their second victory of the season against Somerset. Foakes, especially, seems to have gained plenty, last week vocal in how he has learnt to build an innings at different tempos as the situation dictates.

As a result, he’s very much in line for an Ashes spot this winter. Sangakkara is in no doubt he should go: “I really hope so. He’s done enough to get on that tour. He’s an amazing wicketkeeper, [a] wonderful young player.”

Sangakkara’s has been a terrific career, spread across 20 years of playing the game and reaching the highest levels. This summer, he has looked, far and away, the best in county cricket, and one can’t help but feel that he could very easily continue.

But he is insistent that he is finished.

“For sides to evolve and grow, you need new ideas, new perspectives and new players coming in. Surrey has a great opportunity next year to look for somebody who will continue to make Surrey grow and for them to become stronger.

“And I think I’m not that guy, no matter how many runs I get for them. They need someone new, someone different. They have enough talent in that dressing room to be a real force in county cricket.”

It speaks volumes of his character that, upon being paid the compliment of praising his century at Yorkshire with the pink ball, Sangakkara just brushes it off. “Yeah, but actually I think that was a pretty flat wicket, that one,” he chuckles.

That, more than anything, may well be his legacy: humble to the very last.

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