The Legacy of Kumar Sangakkara

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Apr - 2 - 2011
M V Muhsin

A more determined romantic is hard to find. He totally immerses himself in his mission. And his vision compels him to win any prize he sets his eyes on.

He has two heart throbs. His wife Yehali and the other Cricket. The childhood romance started when she was at the Hillwood College hostel in Kandy.

Kumar Sangakkara gliding a ball. Picture by Kamal Jayamanna

The school’s conservatism made it near impossible to permeate the purdah-like restrictions which were imposed on boarders.

Even at that time Kumar knew how to spot the gaps, and they would meet somehow, somewhere. And then she had to move to Colombo while Kumar remained in Kandy.

That did not deter him. Those were days in his ‘A Level’ years when the students were less regimented at Trinity.

He would ostensibly leave his home at Louise Peiris Mawatha very early in the morning, dressed in starched white school uniform after seeking blessings from his parents.

And then the diversion: he gets down at the Market Bus Stand and takes the Kandy-Colombo bus, gets to Colombo, spends some fleeting moments with Yehali and by noon time hits the road back to Kandy-in time for cricket practices at Asgiriya. He would plead with his Head Prefect Chandana Abeywardena : “Machan if something happens when I am in Colombo on Mission Y, cover up for me” If that’s not commitment to the two forces in his life, tell me what is?

He did not go looking for his other love. He was initially better known as a tennis player renowned for powerful backhand shots. Coach Upananda Jayasundera would marvel at his natural technique.

Sangakkara

Soon his second love cricket came looking for him. His father Kshena Sangakkara Attorney At Law made the introduction, while Mom Kumari initially wanted him to focus on studies and not allow love-life, however defined, to interfere.

It did not take her long to relent as she saw that the son was broad shouldered enough to multi-task, egged on by Trinity’s Principal Lt. Col. Leonard de Alwis. And the result: Kumar captained Trinity cricket, continued his tennis, and acquitted himself very well in the rounded education that the school provides. And for his distinctive leadership he ended up as Head Prefect and Best All-rounder and winner of the coveted Ryde Gold Medal.

This was also when coaches Sunil Fernando, an ex Anthonian and the renowned Bertie Wijesinghe, an ex Thomian who was then on Trinity’s staff, took Kumar under their wing. Also attracted to this venture were the late TK Hannan, and Harold Ranasinghe who can also justifiably claim credit.

With such a battery of coaching power the electrifying current of the finest of cricket techniques flowed through Kumar’s veins. It does so even to this day. We shall ruminate a bit about his stellar accomplishments in cricket later. But given today’s epic World Cup final, let’s rewind and take our minds back to last year’s India-Sri Lanka match played in Colombo.

One may not recall the detailed outcome, but etched in my memory is how Kumar punished Indian bowling with a swashbuckling 90. Punished may not be the right word; hammered may be better; even better is clobbered or bludgeoned.

He scored his 50 in 46 balls, and overall notched 7 boundaries and 3 sixes off some of India’s best bowlers. His strokes had a combination of all those emotions I refer to, in how he handled the array of half volleys, the good line of length, and even the yorkers.

He cleared the ground picking his spots – with a repertoire of mighty hits, one of them in the following sequence: Boundary, Six, Boundary and Boundary ….Ouch! And yet there was no seeming brutality in the way he hit.

It was with grace, well timed and with a technique that made it all look so natural. That was just a year ago. And now he is at a different park that is the Wankhede Stadium Mumbai.

A different setting where he takes on the Indian team powered by 30,000+ Indian fans. Will Sangakkara deal with the pressure with equanimity? You can count on him.

When he was asked after the semi finals who he would prefer to play India or Pakistan, his reply was characteristically nonchalant: it really does not matter -WE are there to take them on. The use of WE is not accidental.

Here is a man ranked as Number 1 Test batsman in the world several times. To his credit he has 24 Test centuries.

And in ODI’s he has 11 ODI centuries and carries 15 Man of the Match awards. He is at the top of the cricketing career. Yet he always talks of the ‘WE’.

His achievements have not gone to his head. You could see this on the field. He often consults and concedes to the advice of vice captain Mahela Jayawardene, and seeks at times input as needed from the likes of Murali, Mahela, Malinga and Dilshan. But he decides quickly, firmly, fairly and rightly.

That’s the hallmark of this born leader. And you could also see this in his ESPN interview after the NZ match where in perfect Sinhalese he took the opportunity to thank the nation for their support and faith.adding WE will do our best.

While his brilliance in batting, wisdom in field setting, astuteness in leadership is now part of the country’s folk lore, one tends to lose sight of his feats as a wicket keeper: always watchful, ready to leap, dart, and catch and to flick the bails with dizzying speed. Again an all rounder of rare class.

Rarer still are giants like him whose unbelievable talent is only matched by the size of his heart.

In his efforts to give back to society the huge debt he says he owes, he involves himself and generously supports a host of well deserving philanthropic initiatives which also includes serving as a Global Ambassador for AIDS prevention. And to his Alma Mater he founded the Cricket Foundation-no wonder that this year’s Trinity team had a winning streak not seen in over half a century and more. But let’s end where we began. Here is formidable leader who has unrelenting commitment to succeed. Getting the best out of his team and motivating them is his talisman for success.

He pursues his goals with an infectious passion. And one can count on him to deliver on the destiny of his dreams that only a romantic like him could.

By M V Muhsin from the Dailynews Newspaper. Images obtained from ESPNCricinfo.

A notable speech from Kumar Sangakkara after winning the semi final match against New Zealand. Watch closely after 2:00.

MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture 2011 by Kumar Sangakkara – Full Speech

 

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