Kumar Sangakkara, one of Sri Lanka's outstanding cricket personalities for his stature and class, both on and off the cricket field, delivered the keynote speech at the Dialog 4G-the Sunday Times Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2019 at a gala night at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre, Colombo last Monday (16).
The eloquent Sangakkara, who delivered the famous Colin Cowdrey lecture at the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) in 2011, was honoured again as the first non-British President of the MCC recently.
As the famous saying, ‘Form is temporary, Class is permanent’, Sangakkara went from fame to fame.
Sangakkara was a cricketer, who persevered relentlessly to ultimately became a record-breaking wicket-keeper batsman in the history of cricket.
He is the only Sri Lanka batsman without any barren periods during his 15-year career.
At present, he is considered one of the greatest ambassadors of cricket, where he goes on to inspire and motivate budding school cricketers, as he did during his inspirational speech as the Chief Guest.
“A very good evening to all of you. Thank you very much for inviting me this evening. This is a very prestigious event, the Dialog 4G-the Sunday Times Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2019. Guest of Honour and a legend of international cricket, both on and off the field, Mr. Rangana Herath, Mr. Ameen Izzadeen of the Sunday Times, Mr. Jayantha Seneviratne, Mr. Ashantha de Mel, Mr. Carlton Bernardus, Mr. Supun Weerasinghe and, of course, all the representatives from Dialog, the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka Cricket, parents, well-wishers and most importantly, my fellow cricketers.”
“This is a wonderful event, a wonderful night, which recognises and showcases the talent of the budding cricketers from all over the island. It’s specially heartening to see there are young girls here as well, because Women’s Cricket, internationally, is growing at an exponential level. It is extremely popular, as more and more people are watching Women’s Cricket. At the next World Cup at the MCG on International Women’s Day, they expect to have 100,000 people witnessing the Women’s final, and that will be a wonderful day to carry a very good message to all the young girls out there and, of course to the parents, that cricket is a viable great sport to young girls to take up, and will have a very strong future for it internationally. And, of course, once standards improve, we will have a proper tournament in Sri Lanka very soon. I think it will be the Dialog 4G-the Sunday Times Schoolboy and girl Cricketer of the Year and whenever that may be. So Mr. Jayantha Seneviratne, I think we all have to work towards it.”
“I had a very long career. Very fortunate to have had a great career and played alongside greats such as Rangana Herath, who is alongside me today. We are also lucky to have Kamindu Mendis, who was Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2018. He has gone on to perform extremely well on the international stage and I am sure, very soon, he will be a permanent fixture in the national side as well. So, there is inspiration in this hall. All you have to do is to look around and you will find it.”
“Cricket is a kind of a funny game. Because it is slightly different from all other sports. Not just in Sri Lanka, but around the world. Cricket is underpinned by certain human values, certain characteristics, certain ways of behavior, both on and off the field, from all of you young cricketers. It is not always about the bat and the ball. It is also always about the person. About who you are. Because, who you are shines through at all times, in the manner you play the game on the field and also how you carry yourself off the field. And cricket is, probably, the only sport that has preambles to its laws and regulations, something called the Spirit of Cricket. The Spirit of Cricket is a guidance. The Laws of Cricket do not contravene or go against the Spirit of Cricket of the game. But there are certain times when the laws and the rules and the playing conditions don’t really cover everything that happens in every instance. And there, you have to allow the Spirit of Cricket, sportsmanship, your values, who you are as a person, your integrity, guide you towards making the right decision. And the right decision is key. It does not mean that you always win. It does not mean that you always lose. But when you are faced with a challenge, it will allow you to make the most correct decision. And that is the beauty of this game that we all love.”
“All of you today are exceptional young cricketers. From here onwards, it is up to you to decide your future. Some of you will join clubs, some of you will continue to dream to play for your country. And to do that, what is required is planning, a lot of hard work, having the right guide and coaches along the way.”
“Making sacrifices, going through tough times. But, above all, believing in the fact that, if you work hard, your skill and your talent and your ability will be good enough. You don’t have to make friends with your coaches. You don’t have to make friends with the umpires. You don’t have to have powerful people in the Cricket Board in your corner. You don’t have to entertain journalist to write well about you, thinking that will get you ahead. All you have to do is work hard, plan properly, commit, focus, concentrate. When the opportunity comes, display your skills to the world. It is not an easy field to be in. So many people expect a lot from you. Your friends, your parents, your coaches, your teachers. But at the end of the day, it is up to you. How you want to map your future is in your hands. You have all the attributes, all the skills, all the opportunities -- grab it. Don’t let others decide for you.”
“Playing for Sri Lanka is a funny thing. You must want to play for Sri Lanka. But never expect it. Don’t think that it is a right. It’s a privilege and you have to earn that privilege. It won’t come easy. And, if it does, and some of you are lucky enough to represent our country in this great sport, remember, the longer you play, the harder it becomes, the harder you have to work and the more effort you have to put in.”
“Cricket in the world is growing in popularity. And along with opportunity comes dangers and pitfalls. We have all heard about indiscipline on the field, indiscipline off the field. We have heard about corruption in cricket. We have heard about match-fixing, spot-fixing, bookies. All these words that threaten the very existence of the game, will also become a threat to some of you. Never be afraid of making the right choice, and making the right decision. Because the measure of a man or a woman is the ability to make the right decision, when the world is against you. It is very easy to make all the decisions and say all the right things, when everything is going for you. But life is not like that. So, be strong, be courageous, face the future with a smile. Look adversity and challenges in the eye. Because, I know for a fact that, looking at you and what you have achieved so far, that anything is possible for you, as long as you believe it.”
“Congratulations to all the winners today, congratulations also to everyone who participated in the tournament and who may not have been here today, don’t be discouraged, because both Rangana Herath and I have never won an award at the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. This is not the end of the line for anyone who has not won or who is not here, or who is not recognised today. It is a challenge, and for the rest of you, winning the challenge is what you do now because, here onwards, you have to improve, you have to grow, not just as cricketers but as gentlemen. Because, at the end of the day, when you have retired, I wish the people will not speak of only the runs you scored, or the wickets you have taken, or the matches you have won. But, will all speak of you as a gentleman. Of your good qualities. Of your humanity. Of your inspiration as a person that has, in turn, inspired other youngsters like you, to do great things.”
“I wish you all the very best. May you have all the strength, all the luck in everything that you do and thank you once again for the invitation. I am very humbled and I am very grateful to be here today. Thank you. ”
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