Rex Clementine, in The Island, 24 August 2015 ….http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=130535
Many have enjoyed Kumar Sangakkara’s elegant batting that fetched him 38 Test hundreds. He had been equally impressive at press conferences talking eloquently on several subjects. Sangakkara spoke to journalists one last time after his final Test at P. Sara Oval yesterday. The star batsman touched on a range of subjects from the support he had received from his parents, emotions during his last Test, comparisons with Sir Don Bradman and much more. Here are the excerpts.
Question: How did you manage the five days of the Test Match as there was so much emotion around your retirement?
Sangakkara: It never hits you until the end comes and you finish the cricket and then you are out there talking about yourself in the past tense. But the game itself, preparation as usual was the same. The focus and putting the fact that it is my last Test behind me. The emotion used to come at the end of the day, knowing that the countdown had started. But unfortunately, we didn’t play as well as we could. India played a fantastic game of cricket. But from a personal point of view, I enjoyed every minute of it even though ending up on the losing side is disappointing. I was very, very glad that I have been fortunate enough to play another Test Match.
Question: There was a banner at the ground that said ‘Our Land, Our Pride’. Now with many greats retired, is there a danger that Sri Lankan cricket will struggle in years to come?
Sangakkara: That’s in no danger at all. The younger generation take their cricket very seriously. They take their commitment very seriously and I know when you are in the dressing room, when you lose, you see the disappointment and the hurt. And without a doubt, that will drive them on to do much better. It will take some time for them to find their feet, it is a very young team but the way they are going about their preparation, their work ethic, their commitment, no one can fault them for that. The harder they work, the better they will become for it and I am sure you will see them take Sri Lanka cricket farther and higher in future.
Question: What happened today with so many dignitaries and so much of goodwill, is that the most memorable day in your cricket?
Sangakkara: Ya, it is certainly the most memorable, especially the announcement (by the President). Your last Test, you obviously remember for various reasons. Special thanks to Mr. Sunil Gavaskar for those very very kind words. I watched him score hundreds against West Indies in a hat and a little cut-out plastic skull cap. And to have a player of his legendary ability to say what he said, I am very grateful. Also to everyone who came out and supported me – the fans, all of you, the teammates and my family. It is a very memorable Test.
Question: It’s said that Sir Don Bradman was overawed by the welcome he received when he came out to bat in his last Test innings. Apparently, there was tears in his eyes and that he couldn’t see the ball that dismissed him. Did you encounter a similar thing?
Sangakkara: I think I just couldn’t see the ball that Ashwin bowled me four times in a row. Every other ball, I saw pretty well. But that’s the way it goes. You can’t always score runs, that’s always going to be the case in your career. And everyone wants to sign off on a high but unfortunately I couldn’t score a fifty or a hundred or do it in that sense. But no, the focus is always very clear when I go out to bat – it is about scoring runs and trying to take the team forward. Unfortunately, my contribution wasn’t enough in this game.
Question: A former coach had suggested that you were in fact a better batsman than Sir Don Bradman himself.
Sangakkara: I think he might have been joking. I watched Bradman bat on old grainy videos and he was exceptional. You take any of those great cricketers from any era and you put them here with the modern techniques, the modern training methods and he might have averaged much more. But there will always be comparisons but I am pretty secure in being Kumar and having played the game and achieved what I have in the game.
Question: Talk us through what happened soon after you were dismissed in your last Test innings?
Sangakkara: The moment I got out it was the usual disappointment and frustration is there, because my job is to try and stay there till the end of the day. But when I was walking off and all the Indian players came and shook my hands that is when it hit me, that’s it really. So going back into the dressing room and taking the pads off it just hits you that is the last time you will be doing that in national colours. There is a note of finality in that.
Question: Ravichandran Ashwin has picked up 17 wickets so far in the series. What were your plans to counter him?
Sangakkara: We talked about players going down the wicket, trying to sweep but those are at times plans you have to execute in the first innings, you try and get ahead of the game. In the second innings, it gets tougher because you are trying to defend. But he has the weapons in his armoury to counterattack, when someone starts sweeping you will see him bowl a bit quicker, fuller and straighter at the stumps. When it turns you will see him vary his pace and try to get it straighter. His seam position is fantastic. He seems to be thinking all the time. So it is a great challenge to play against him and it’s interesting to see how the boys go against him in the next Test.
Question: You have scored so many double hundreds and what’s your advice for youngsters on batting for longer duration?
Sangakkara: It is really about concentration. Getting your first hundred is the hard part, the next one if you bat long enough it comes. Knowing when to accelerate and when to be defensive, most of all knowing how to break down your concentration. You have to concentrate eight hours to get a double hundred. You only concentrate on specific deliveries. So there is a very short time to be able to take your mind off the ball when you are on the non-striker’s end or in between deliveries. So it is something that comes naturally to some, others learn. It is just a case of managing that.
Question: What are your special moments in cricket?
Sangakkara: Quite a few special moments. Today was always going to be special for a lot of reasons. It was the first time that I had my parents, my children, my siblings, and my wife all together at one place, watching me play. That is always going to be the memorable part of my game. My parents have never made a fuss of anything. They rarely come to games or see me off during tours. But they keenly follow my game. So that has really helped me keep grounded throughout everything I have gone through. Those are the real memorable moments, because once I’m finished, I’ll miss the game, but I know I have the security.
Question: You thanked so many people today. Did you remember all the names?
Sangakkara: I forgot to mention my wife and children by name. To me when I say my family, it’s all of them. You know my children are six years old now but that’s been the highlight of my partnership. She has been amazingly supportive and amazingly tolerant. I’m quite a chaotic person. I’m only organised in my batting. Anything away from that, it’s not easy for her to get me organised, to keep me on track and get my appointments done. But she has done the most amazing job. Having her and then she has gifted me amazing children. Like I said again, I’m blessed with so much and I’m thankful. Yehali and my children is the best partnership of my life. So I hope she tolerates me for a few more years.
Question: What made you one of the legends of the game?
Sangakkara: Tough (to say). I think it’s in the way my work ethic changed. I found a bit more about myself, and I found out a way that would work. It doesn’t work the same for everyone. But for me it was a case of working, changing, working, changing and trying to find a formula. More often than not, I was fortunate that what I tried worked. I wish there was a secret like I knew exactly what’s working. At times you just don’t know what is working and you keep doing it. You don’t count the teeth of a gift horse when it’s running. You change it only when you hit a stumbling block and try something new.
Question: Over the years, how have you changed as a person?
Sangakkara: I have grown a lot mellow. I was a bit feisty when I started. Lot more relaxed when it comes to approaching and preparing for the game. I have learnt not to get lost in the game too much when I’m away from it. At the end of the day, you play an amazing and unique sport, but you’ve got to play it as a sport. You need to play it with an almost childish wonder, where you just play and you enjoy. If it doesn’t work, you give up with disappointment, come back and try and enjoy the game. If you have that attitude and that kind of perception of the game, and I think that’s kind of change in me. I have been able to let it go and come back with a bit of balance. I don’t know how that happened. It’s a gradual change.
Question: Who are the bowlers who have challenged you most?
Sangakkara: Ashwin in this series, Zaheer Khan, Graeme Swann – when I’ve played against some of these bowlers, I’ve sometimes been unsuccessful. But you’re always trying to refine your strategy and come out of that. Wasim Akram is someone I’ve played only when I was young – thankfully. He’s got me out once and his bowling style was excellent. Playing against cricketers like this is a big challenge.
Question: Your thoughts on not being able to represent your country anymore?
Sangakkara: I’m sad, but there’s also a joy, because playing cricket everyday is not easy. There is pressure. There is lots of difficult work. A struggle. Sacrifice. It’s not easy. So if you look at it like that, there is some relief. That pressure and those expectations have been lifted off. But at the same time, watching cricket is also not easy. That desire is still there. You have to get used to that. I hope that now I’m out of the game, I’ll be able to appreciate the cricket that is played, and the young cricketers who are playing it.
Question: What about your lean trot in your last series?
Sangakkara: Yes, there is disappointment, but that’s what’s great about cricket. You don’t know what will happen. You try one thing, and if it doesn’t work, you try something else. If it works, then you win and are happy. I’m not too downhearted about it.
Question: What kind of influence your parents had in you?
Sangakkara: Both my parents have had a special influence on my life and my cricket career. It’s the foundation that they gave me at home that has brought me this far in life. At the same time my wife and my two children – in the last 15, 20 years, they were right behind me. It’s not something you can do yourself. My family, my friends and everyone has made sacrifices, and it’s through that love that I’ve been able to get where I am. I’m especially thankful to them.
Question: Your wife has said that you love cooking. Any special dishes that you are good at?
Sangakkara: I’d love to cook rice and fish, but I can’t do that well yet. Yehali doesn’t like me cooking very much because I make too much of a mess, and there’s more to be cleaned up. I try to cook what I can. There’s a lot to learn in future.
Question: What are you going to do after cricket?
Sangakkara: I’ll go home and sleep. Then tomorrow I’m going to England. If you’re talking about my future, I have to sit down with my wife and children and figure out what’s best for them. Whether I’m part of cricket or not, the sport will go forward. It won’t stop. I have a great responsibility to my family, so I’ll think about them first, before anything else.
Question: You have taken an ambassador role to campaign against narcotics. A few words on that role?
Sangakkara: It’s an important job – to help free the young people in the country from drugs. A lot of people have worked very hard, and made a lot of sacrifices for that. If I can give some support, then I’m very fortunate. When I look at people who are addicted, it’s usually young people. It’s great if I can support the effort to give them a successful life.
Kumar Sangakkara’s Farewell Speech at the PSara ground in August, http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/video_audio/913259.html … An emotional Kumar Sangakkara spoke about his career, the support he got from his family, friends and team-mates in his farewell speech after the second Test
Where it all began: Kshema & Kumari Sangakkara at Engeltine Cottage
Kumar with an Aussie admirer Bryan Atkinson of Adelaide
Yehali and Kumar as Examples to All
Kumar Sangakkara leaves the field
* Andrew Fidel Fernando: “Sanga rules the North,” http://www.espncricinfo.com/srilanka/content/story/685443.html
* Andrew Fidel Fernando: “Like a Kandyan Dancer,” http://www.espncricinfo.com/sri-lanka-v-england-2014-15/content/story/809191.html
* Editor, Thuppahi: “Sangakkaras visit St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna,” 12 April 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/sangakkaras-visit-st-patricks-college-jaffna/
* Michael Roberts: “Kumar Sangakkara’s Ecumenical Lankan Nationalism,” 9 July 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/kumar-sangakkara%e2%80%99s-ecumenical-lankan-nationalism/
* Thuppahi: “Kumar and Mahela … Cricket and Reconciliation… Northern Empowerment … via Alison’s Tea Break,” 12 October 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/kumar-and-mahela-cricket-and-reconciliation-northern-empowerment-via-alisons-tea-break/
* Thuppahi: “Unity Team” sponsored by Emirates to play cricket in Singapore and promote FOG’s work of reconciliation,” 16 October 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/yunity-team-sponsored-by-emirates-to-play-cricket-in-singapore-and-promote-fogs-work-of-reconciliation/
* Michael Roberts: “Engeltine Cottage in Kandy: The Intertwining of Three Families — Pieris, Sangakkara and Krishnapillai,” 4 April 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/engeltine-cottage-in-kandy-the-intertwining-of-three-families-pieris–sangakkara–and-krishnapillai
- The Badger: “The Best of the Best : Paul Farbrace in Considered Praise of Sangakkara,” 16 August 2015, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/the-best-of-the-best-paul-farbrace-in-considered-praise-of-kumar-sangakkara/
- Rex Clementine: “Kumar: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow –Q and A with Rex,” 12 August 2015, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/kumar-yesterday-today-tomorrow-q-and-a-with-rex/
- Simon Hughes: “Batting in England = more Science than art, so say Rogers & Sanga,” 20 August 2015, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/batting-in-england-more-science-than-art-so-say-rogers-sanga/
- Andrew Fidel Fernando: “Kumar calibrated within the Sangakkara Family and the World of Cricket,” https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/kumar-calibrated-within-the-sangakkara-family-and-the-world-of-cricket/