As the sun set at the P Sara Oval on the 4th day of the 2nd test against India, it had seen Kumar Sangakkara bat for Sri Lanka one last time. For years now, as it bid adieu to a day’s play, it didn’t fret much, for it knew Kumar was there. But now? On the 23rd of August, Kumar waved his bat to the crowd, to the people all over world and to the skies. The sun will no more rise with the assurance of Kumar behind it.
Calculated, measured and a laborious artist, he was. He shed sweat in building monuments, labored along the 22 yards to create landscapes. He wasn’t a maverick, he wasn’t a gifted artist by the side of the river, instead he was a toiling son of a knowledgeable father, who managed to produce art of the highest quality, not with hands of a genius but with hands of hardship.
In the Cowdrey Lecture in 2011, If you have listened to how he walked us through the history of Sri Lanka and it’s cricket, it’s war and hostility, it’s beauty and troubles, you would feel more than justified as to why Kumar’s cover drive is played with knee bent, played laboriously yet with flair, unlike with the flamboyance produced by the other southpaws. It gives you the feeling of warmth, reflects the calculation and measurement of thought behind it. So was his speech, beautiful yet precise, tough yet warm. He spoke with perfectness and effectiveness of his cover drive.
As he grew from a chirpy, energetic youngster to a responsible and matured leader, he scripted some amazing victories for his side, especially in England and South Africa, also many other valuable home victories. Away from home when Sri Lanka looked for inspiration with bat, Kumar put his hand up in thriving conditions and marshaled his team’s batting around him. With minimal tours outside the sub continent, it wasn’t easy even for the great Sangakkara to adjust and propel in challenging conditions, but yet he did, which reflects his character and tenacity more than his talent.
Unlike many sportsmen, Kumar wasn’t a dying champion in his last days. He was the most successful in his last few years, piling up runs wherever he played like how sacks of rice are piled up in a rice mill. He would mark his guard and start the process of scoring runs, like how an obedient student would start the process of his preparation for the exams. Each time his records in recent years were scanned, more gigantesque it’s growth seemed.
Along with Mahela he formed the backbone of Lankan cricket in all the formats of the game for most part of his career. He captained the side, kept wickets for Sri Lanka alongside mounting runs. He and Mahela complimented each other so well as how a doubles pair in Tennis would. Together they exhibited passion and energy which made Lankan cricket a joy to watch. No wonder we are going to miss these modern greats in days to come.
A lawyer who knew when to pose an argument and when to leave it alone, a student who knew how to prepare and how to deliver, an orator who knew what to speak and what not to and a batsman who played the flick off his legs as if he was caressing a brush across his canvas, Kumar Sangakkara was not just a cricketer from the island nation, he was an educational cricketing institution. Most of the chapters scripted by him are to be savored and cherished for as long as cricket exists.
He may continue his study to pursue a degree in law but soon his cricketing expertise will be required, a second innings in cricket is much awaited. We may or may not witness another player exhibit a cover drive as he did but we would love to see youngsters from Island nation blossoming under him, who would exhibit the same passion and hunger as he did.