Raising the bar is a challenge that comes across every human being during his short life span, but, raising it to such levels as some selected individuals do is a task that the majority of the mundane populace cannot strive for – it is simple beyond them. As a cricketer, Kumar Sangakkara had a modest [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Where do all the heroes go?


Raising the bar is a challenge that comes across every human being during his short life span, but, raising it to such levels as some selected individuals do is a task that the majority of the mundane populace cannot strive for – it is simple beyond them.
As a cricketer, Kumar Sangakkara had a modest appearance with his keeping gloves or bat. Yet, with his vision towards the game and as a Sri Lankan, he was a towering figure among peers.

Kumara Sangakkara (C) with the ground staff pose for photographers after the second Test cricket match between Sri Lanka and India at the P. Sara Oval Cricket Stadium in Colombo on August 24, 2015.

His stature grew tall day by day, not just because of the 12,400 runs he scored. It was more to do with his intelligence and attitude off the field and especially his unassuming ways and the ability to adapt to situations that made him more special than the others.

His business partner and former teammate and the most trusted companion, Mahela Jayawardane had done a superb revelation of Sanga’s attitude towards people and how well he was blending with every community in different and contrasting situations.

“We’ve all made fun of his accent. Especially when he goes overseas and speaks to people he gets that strong accent. When he’s in Sri Lanka talking to us, it’s not like that” Mahela Jayawardane told in a recent interview with Cricinfo.com.

As he retired from international cricket at the P. Sara Oval Colombo — a momentous occasion for the entire cricketing world, this man was among 50 to 60 ground staff, who entrusted with the task of putting on the covers in case of rain. He posed for a photograph with them at a time all his well wishers and friends were waiting for him.

From James Lillywhite, who skippered England in the inaugural test against Australia at the MCG in 1877, there were various types of cricketers who changed the face of the game from time to time.

Sir Donald Bradman remains as the unmatchable run machine while former England skipper Douglas Jardine and Harold Larwood brought the intimidation to cricket in the 1932-33 bodyline series. However, it was the skipper Jardine got the devil out of Larwood who really didn’t bowl to hurt a batsman intentionally. Sir Jack Hobbs was the Bradman mould English answer for Aussies.

His 5,410 runs in 61 test matches at an average of 56.94 (including 3,636 runs at 54.27 in 41 Ashes tests) persuaded Douglas Jardine to call him ‘The Master’. His astonishing tally of 61,000 plus runs in first class cricket, including 199 centuries made him a peerless batsman before the second Wald War. He was 46 years old when he scored 142 and 65 against Australia in 1929 Ashes test, at the MCG. Thus he remains the oldest cricketer to score a test century.

Sir Garfield Sobers, who could do anything on a cricket field with or without the bat or ball, was a genius. He introduced the importance of being an allrounder and every time Sobers is seen in the opposing camp, captains had to change their team composition as well as the game plan. As a captain, Sir Garfield was fearless in his declarations and never got scared of losing in search of a win.

Sanga said the same thing to Mathews in his farewell speech at the P. Sara Oval, last Monday. Former English opener, Geoffrey Boycott, is considered as the most selfish cricketer ever. He brought selfishness to the square and broke the World Test Record of 8032 runs, held by Sir Garfield Sobers.

Yes, if looking forward for success, one has to love and stick to what he is doing and that’s the message Boycott brought to cricket.
Great soul mates at Somerset County Cricket Club and off the field, and also fierce competitors when they represent their nations, Sir Vivian Richards and Sir Ian Botham, made their marks in the mid eighties as Rambo type cricketers. They were simply raw and natural. Their aggression came in a spirited cover of cricket and no one blamed for being themselves.

Among the contemporary greats such as Stephan Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis and Ricky Ponting, our own Kumar Sangakkara is a cut above the rest. Mainly due to the reputation he bears as to be a scholar, more than a cricketer.
He was a front row fan of English literature and a keen student of art and law. At the time he broke into the test team, He was a law student and his IQ level is accepted in every corner on the planet.

Sanga is the only cricketer in the world to be accommodated in to the ICC cricket committee, as a player, from 2007 until his retirement. He got the nod of ICC top brasses to be elected to the ICC cricket committee, as player representative, two years before being appointed as the Sri Lanka captain.
“Kumar Sangakkara will rightly go down as one of cricket’s greatest-ever players and ambassadors”
“Across an illustrious career, he maintained levels of excellence whether batting, keeping wickets or leading by example” ICC chief executive, David Richardson was quoted as saying in its official website.
“By scoring a total of 28,016 runs across all three formats, he puts himself in the higher echelons of players to ever grace the game. But he also made a considerable contribution off the field and carried the weight of expectation of a passionate Sri Lanka supporting public, as he did his batting, with great class” Richardson said congratulating Sangakkara on a highly successful career,
“The high esteem in which he is also held by his peers is emphasized by the fact that he was invited to deliver the prestigious 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdery Lecture at Lord’s, becoming the first active player to do so” Richardson added.Cricketing idols such as Tony Greig (in 2012) and Sir Ian Botham (in 2014) were invited to the oration after Sanga graced the home of cricket.
The latest offer came in a surprise packet at his retirement as the His Excellency; President Maithreepala Sirisena offered him the post of the island’s top envoy in Britain.
This is something that any Sri Lankan will grab in both hands without a second thought. However, Sanga had the instinct of not falling into a political appointment and also not to leave the country’s first person in a difficult situation. In addition to that, he is still playing county cricket in England and he has had to honour the contract with Surrey Cricket Club for another season or two.
Without panic, he faced the offer as he was taking up a googly from Abdul Qadir or an out swinging bouncer from Jeff Thomson.
“I respect the President’s request. I need to talk more with him about it”
“I’m very inexperienced in such things. You need to have special knowledge for that post as well. I have to think about it and work out a reply to the offer” Sanga said at the post match press conference.
Numbers associated with Sangakkara will often drive you to compare him with Sir Donald Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara but he is a different character altogether.
Kumar Choksanada Sangakkara is not just a cricketer. His instincts and far sight had carried him beyond the boundary to create an everlasting image of repute. This is what Sanga brought to the game of cricket in this country and confirmed that cricketers can be looked upon as icons.
Kumar Sangakkara has become an icon. Not only for young and aspiring cricketers for the next generation, but also for every mother who drag their kids to tuition classes in all five days of the week.
Any Sri Lankan mother would love to see her son as a potential candidate to become the High Commissioner of England. When would the next Lankan son would be born to raise the bar that Kumar has already set up – a complete product in every sense of cricket or otherwise.

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