Kumar Sangakkara is the overwhelming fans’ favourite for the crown of cricket.com.au One-Day International Greatest of All Time after an exhaustive online polling process.
Sangakkara’s highly motivated and extremely passionate supporters delivered the title to the Sri Lankan star, who received more votes than India’s Sachin Tendulkar in the final.
Sangakkara’s prowess in one-day cricket is proven. He scored 14,234 runs in 404 matches, averaging 41.98 with 25 centuries to his name.
While his batting was his chief contribution – only Tendulkar has more ODI runs – he was also a worthy gloveman, and kept wickets with aplomb to Muthiah Muralidaran, to claim 482 dismissals behind the stumps.
After 40 days and millions of votes, Sangakkara and Tendulkar rose above a cavalcade of the world’s greatest ODI players to be considered the top two by the voting audience.
The ODI GOAT was run as a bracketed head-to-head knockout competition, similar to a grand slam tennis draw. It started with 64 one-day players, as selected by the cricket.com.au editorial team, and was loosely grouped into batsmen, bowlers, and allrounders/wicketkeepers.
The match-ups presented fans with difficult choices throughout – it was no easy task to split Michael Hussey and Michael Bevan in the first round – while others crossed generations and required more consideration than just the bare stats.
In some instances the modern player won out, their talent too good to ignore in an evolving game, such as the triumph of Chris Gayle over fellow West Indian powerhouse Desmond Haynes. While in others, the weight of history and a legendary career prevailed against the exploits of a modern marvel – such as Wasim Akram’s overwhelming support ahead of Mitchell Starc.
Throughout the voting process, social media was abuzz with the daily #ODIGOAT match-ups. Passionate fans were voting, sharing and tagging their friends and returning to cricket.com.au over and over and over again to ensure the player they viewed as the greatest progressed in the competition.
Sangakkara’s title owes much to this style of voting. The Sri Lankan – and global – supporters of Sangakkara pushed their man past MS Dhoni, Adam Gilchrist and AB de Villiers among glovemen – all exceptional one-day players in their own rights. In the quarter-finals he advanced past Australia’s legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne and then was more popular than Pakistan icon Imran Khan.
Tendulkar’s task suddenly got a whole lot harder. A quarter-final match that many might argue would have been a worthy final: Sachin Tendulkar v Sir Vivian Richards, India’s Little Master up against the West Indies’ original Master Blaster.
Debate was fierce, arguments reasoned, torn down and argued again. Statistics were analysed and fans grappled with how to weigh up the intangible X-factor quality that each carried that allowed them to dominate the game as it was in their respective generations before finally casting their vote.
This was perhaps the most fiercely contested match-up between fans. Ultimately, Tendulkar advanced, and none could say he did not deserve it.
He faced a semi-final against Sanath Jayasuriya, another beneficiary of zealous support. Jayasuriya was swept aside for Tendulkar to reach the final, where the rally cries and impassioned pleas for votes for Sangakkara proved the difference.
Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)
The numbers: Matches: 404 | Runs: 14,234 | Average: 41.98 | SR: 78.86 | 100s: 25 | HS: 169 | Dis: 501 | C: 402 (19 in field) | St: 99
#ODIGOAT Voting: Sangakkara faced a tough match-up in the first round in India’s World Cup winning captain MS Dhoni but was the overwhelmingly popular vote to go through to the final 32. Next, he knocked off Australian legend Adam Gilchrist, claiming 60 per cent of the vote, before ousting South Africa superstar AB de Villiers in the round of 16. In the quarters, Sangakkara dispensed with another Aussie great, Shane Keith Warne, and he overcame Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup winning captain Imran Khan in the semi-finals.