KUMAR SANGAKKARA, Rhapsody on and off the field | Daily News

KUMAR SANGAKKARA, Rhapsody on and off the field

Sangakkara playing one of his exquisite cover drives
Sangakkara playing one of his exquisite cover drives

He belongs to the World's Cricket Hall of Fame. And he brought glory to his country. He Captained Sri Lanka Cricket with distinction. And decorated his Club the Nondescripts Cricket Club with his stellar achievements.

He led Sri Lanka into the World Cup 50 Over Tournament Finals against India. And this Colossus of a Cricketer had his upbringing at Trinity College Kandy where he was a distinguished Ryde Gold Medalist, the highest honour the School confers on one schoolboy all-rounder in a year.

And to round it all up on the world stage, he delivered what was one of the most acclaimed speeches at the Lord's when he delivered the Colin Cowdrey Lecture at the MCC.

If that was a breathtaking introduction, it is only a mere synopsis of the highlights of Sri Lanka Captain KUMAR CHOKSHANDA SANGAKKARA's achievements.

SANGAKKARA got statisticians working overtime in entering his name is the books of being the first batsman in the world to reel off four centuries in a row at the 2014/ ’15 World Cup played in New Zealand and Australia. It was an effort that's monumental and could never easily be equaled or surpassed and will last the test of time. It was a batting RHAPSODY.

A left hand batsman in the classical mould, stylish, elegant and with the knack of rare timing, SANGAKKARA was king when he was in the scene and has been described as batsman for young cricketers watching this role model as an example.

Rolls Royce of batsmen

He can be described as the Rolls Royce of batsmen. When at the wicket he exuded confidence, never did he look uneasy as he quickly read the bowler’s repertoire, be it pace or spin, got quickly into action and caressed the ball through the field or over. His bat was a magic wand in his hand.

He has been described as the ‘most polished and prudent of batsmen’ in the game. And the writer can vouch for this fact having watched his magic from his school days, where he served notice of his prowess not only as a batsman but also wicket keeper like the great England wicket keeper of old Godfrey Evans.

Not only did SANGAKKARA excel as a cricketer but was a speaker much in demand and left a permanent seal when he delivered the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture at Lord’s. It stunned the audience and to use cricketing parlance, he hit all round the wicket that took the Sri Lanka establishment and global cricket administrations by storm . He was the youngest to deliver this lecture on the invitation of that famous cricket writer Christopher Martin Jenkins.

Audience spellbound

The lecture was of one hour’s duration and he held the audience spellbound and glued to their seats as he let go with the no holds barred lecture.

The highlight of his speech was when he said: ‘accountability and transparency in administration and credibility of conduct were lost in a made power struggle that would leave Sri Lanka with no clear, consistent administration’. There were loud cheers when he concluded. The speech was described as the ‘most important speech in cricket history.

SANGAKKARA in school at Trinity indulged in many sports like badminton, tennis, swimming, table tennis and cricket and had good potential. But it was cricket that held his fancy and he played for his school from under 13 to the first side. He was fortunate to have as his coaches former Dharmaraja captain Upananda Jayasundera and that dream coach, Thomian, SSC and Ceylon all rounder Bertie Wijesinha to nurture him in his formative years. Wijesinha has coached many champions.But Sangakkara was the prize win.

Prestigious prize

At just 19 he was spotted by the selectors as a promising wicket keeper/batsman and tossed him into the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team that toured South Africa in 1998/’99. But it was the swashbuckling 156 he made in a one-day game against Zimbabwe that shot him to orbit and stardom.

He made his Test debut on July 20, 2000 as wicket keeper batsman for Sri Lanka against South Africa in a Three Test series. He made his first three figure score which he will always remember when he made 106 against India when they toured here for a Three test series. He made his first double hundred against Pakistan in 2002 in the 2nd Asian test championship in Pakistan.

First double hundred

After making his first double hundred, making a string of double hundreds came naturally to him, so much so that in all he made 11 double hundreds, falling short by one more to equal the 12 double hundreds made by the late great Australian batting sensation and captain Sir Donald Bradman. He would have equaled the great Don, but a mix up by the scoreboard attendants in a Test at Galle against Pakistan made him remain unbeaten on 199. He would have gone past the Don and hugged the top slot of double century makers in Test cricket of all time, but was unfortunate to be ruled out at 197 caught when the ball was nowhere near his bat in a Test in Hobart against Australians.

But SANGAKKARA was not disappointed nor did he brood about the unfair dismissal or the scoreboard attendants mistake. He played a straight bat and took his challenges in his stride.

Legion of awards

He has been credited as the fastest batsman in Test cricket to reach 8,000, 9,000,11,000 and 12,000 runs. The awards he received were legion. He was ‘ICC Cricketer of the year’ in 2012, in the same year ‘Test cricketer of the year’. He won the ‘ODI cricketer of the year’ many times in 2011 and 2013. He was named ‘Wisden's Leading Cricketer in the World’ in 2011 and 2015.

When his buddy Jayawardena quit the country’s captaincy, SANGAKKARA was the automatic choice to take over and he continued the excellent work initiated by Jayawardena and settled down to the onerous duties as captain with aplomb and had the distinction of leading the country to the World Cup final in 2011 in India against India.

How Sri Lanka lost that final after making a huge score of 274 and having India at 31 for 2 with Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar gone cheaply was a matter that was inexplicable.

Rewriting record books

After writing and rewriting the cricket record books in all forms of the game, he retired from the shorter format in 2014 and the longer format in 2015. On retiring from captaincy he is on record having said –

‘Captaining Sri Lanka is a job that ages you very quickly . It’s rarely a job you will last long in. I also had a two year stint, and I enjoyed it at times, certainly on the field when our results showed we were one of the top two sides in the world for one-and-a-half-years, especially in the shorter form of the game’.

All good things must come to an end, it is said and so it was for SANGAKKARA and in a poignant moment it would have been galling for him to shed bats and gloves at the conclusion of the Second Test against India at the world famous Colombo Oval June 27. 2015.

Best scoreboard

The P.SARA OVAL which has probably the best scoreboard in the world and maintained meticulously by the authorities and which ground is also a picture where all the greats have played, was gaily decorated fittingly for the occasion with banners that read – THANK YOU SANGA – and ‘CLASS NEVER RETIRES’.

Many tournaments

SANGAKKARA has played in many tournaments abroad which are too numerous to record. But his three year stint with Surrey in the English county scene would have been the most he enjoyed scoring heavily for the county. Like his good buddy Mahela Jayawardena he also showed his competence as a TV commentator joining the SkySports channel. His reading of the wicket, the game and tactics to be adopted were excellent and well received by viewers.

SANGAKKARA is the son of Anuska Surangana and Swarnakumara Sangakkara and has two sisters Thusari and Saranga and an elder brother Vemindra. He is married to Yehali and has twins, a girls and a boy named Swynee and Kavish.

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