By Smriti Daniel Kumar Sangakkara and the De Lanerolle Brothers brought the house down this week; they melted hearts, opened wallets and inspired an outpouring of patriotism of the best kind. The three men had clubbed their not inconsiderable talents to produce a concert at Water’s Edge, with the funds raised from ticket sales to [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

The spoken word and songs that endeared them to all


By Smriti Daniel

Kumar Sangakkara and the De Lanerolle Brothers brought the house down this week; they melted hearts, opened wallets and inspired an outpouring of patriotism of the best kind. The three men had clubbed their not inconsiderable talents to produce a concert at Water’s Edge, with the funds raised from ticket sales to go toward two worthy charities, the Ceylon School for the Deaf and the Blind and Sanga’s Bikes for Life.

‘Come on Kumar, sing’: Rohan de Lanerolle (left) urges Kumar Sangakkara (centre) to join brother Ishan de Lanerolle (right) in the show’s finale. Pix by Susantha Liyanawatte

Taking to the stage first in white tuxedos and then in black suits, the De Lanerolle brothers reminded us of what consummate performers they were. Ishan and Rohan bring an endearing chemistry to their on stage performances – their technical mastery of their art paired with voices so rich and pure make them a pleasure to listen to. To the obvious delight of their fans, the brothers sang favourites like Spanish Eyes, The Prayer, You’ll Never Walk Alone, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, What A Wonderful World, Love Changes Everything and Is This the Way to Amarillo; for the last they encouraged the audience to sing the shalalalas in the chorus along with them.

Coming on in between songs, Kumar did what he does second best – talk. The iconic cricketer delivered a stirring speech filled with hope for the country’s future and a fierce commitment to its children. He began by introducing both charities, explaining that the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind, established in 1912 provides education and vocational training to approximately 700 sight and hearing impaired children free of charge. Kumar pointed out that the charity requires an estimated Rs. 50 million annually to do their work, and while a small percentage is provided by the state, most of it is raised from well-wishers by the school’s board of trustees.

Sharing the backstory of Bikes for Life, Kumar said he was inspired by friend and fellow cricketing legend, Mahela Jayawardene who first visited the North and East with his Mahela Foundation to do coaching lessons and donate cricket supplies. “He went to Oddusuddan, a thriving school, a mixed school, and he came back with stories that were inspiring. He told Kushil (Gunasekera), myself, Murali (Muttiah Muralidharan) that the children in those areas were burning with the desire to play the sport, to play any sport for that matter. They had the enthusiasm, they had the talent, they had the ability but not the facilities,” Kumar remembers.

In the conversations that followed, the importance of transportation came up, and alongside it the identification of a bicycle as an affordable, efficient mode of transport for the whole family. Specially designed bicycles that could safely carry three people were subsequently commissioned. Today, Kumar and his team have donated nearly 3000 bikes.
He shared his pleasure in seeing how happy the children in their “crisp, white uniforms,” were to receive their bikes. Being there to deliver the bikes personally was a priority. “Travelling in the North is important,” said the cricketer. “Being there personally is important. Because building trust is one of the hardest things to do after the war. People in those regions, fellow Sri Lankans need to be able to see us, we need to be able to look them in the eye. More importantly, we need to keep the promises that we make.”

Enjoying the music: Kumar and wife Yehali and below, other members of the audience

Kumar spoke glowingly too of the work of the Foundation of Goodness and its founder Kushil Gunasekera. (Kumar is on the Board of Trustees). The Foundation which supports an estimated 20,000 individuals, was also the driving force behind the Murali Harmony Cup which brought together 20 teams (of which eight teams were all girls) to play competitive cricket in five centres in the North and East – Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Oddusuddan and Vavuniya. “Places,” says Kumar, “where cricket has not been played in 35 years, places that have no facilities to play cricket in.”

With the help of allies like the ICC and Sri Lankan Army, the team built the necessary grounds and facilities. Expecting the teams from the North and East to struggle a little at first, they were delighted to discover they had a fight on their hands when the cricket team from Jaffna handily beat the Trinity College team from Kandy – then the country’s under 19 cricket champions.

“Why I give you these examples is to show you that these children are full of life, they are full of talent, they are full of ability. They just need opportunities. This is why you are here this evening,” Kumar said, making a strong plea for funds and the application of “toil and sweat and effort,” that would make Sri Lanka a country where everyone enjoyed equal opportunity. “We need to have the children in the North and the East enjoying life in the same manner that our children do,” he said.

Having a little fun at his own expense, Kumar pointed out that there were many different reasons people gave to charity. “Sometimes we give, so we can boast about it and talk about it at functions, like I am doing today,” he said, later adding, “now I don’t really care why you want to give. I really don’t. I just care that you do give.”

Before the crowd poured out of the hall and into the foyer where merchandise waited to be sold, and where guests could take pictures with Kumar and the De Lanerolles, he made his last appeal, strongly worded yet clear eyed and full of faith in what could be accomplished if only more people set their minds to it:

“But we are here tonight to contribute, to give, so that we can directly touch the lives of our fellow Sri Lankans who are in need. These Sri Lankans you help with your money today, you might never see them, you might never meet them. You might never know their names, they might never know who you are. But, I will guarantee you one thing, Ladies and Gentlemen, one thing of which I’m certain. Even though we don’t change the world tonight, one of the lives that you do change and empower, might very well change the world for you. So think about it. Think about giving.”

For more on Kumar’s speech and the show please see and for more photographs see

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