Yet another Sri Lankan sportsman has brought international fame to cricket and the country when it was announced that one of Sri Lanka’s best ever batsmen-wicket keeper Kumar Sangakkara was inducted into the International Cricket Council’s Cricket Hall of Fame.
Sangakkara was earlier honoured when he was installed as the Chairman of the Marylebone Cricket Club. Now this was a great achievement because in the history of English cricket there has never been anyone other than an Englishman who took this high seat.
And now for his extraordinary feats in the game, the ex-left hand batsman, wicket keeper and captain, the International Cricket Council has recognized his brilliance and included him into this Hall which is the not easily achievable because it is reserved only for greats.
Sangakkara joins a band of cricketers who had done yeoman service to the game. Not only has he proved his credentials on the field but has also been an ambassador extraordinary for the game and country.
On the subject of ambassador, it must be recalled that when he played his farewell game at the P. Sara Oval, present to thank him and bid him farewell for his many great achievements was former President of the country Maithripala Sirisena who jubilantly offered him the post of ambassador to Great Britain.
For one so young to receive this offer from the President was indescribable, but with his love to serve the game and its progress uppermost in his mind, Sangakkara had to gracefully turn down the offer. No other sportsman in the country had ever before been offered a posting of such magnitude. Such was Sangakkara’s humility. He is also a Ryde Gold Medallist for his all-round achievements in the school of his making –Trinity College Kandy.
In addition to his great efforts with the willow, the gloves, he had an excellent cricketing brain that helped Sri Lanka to many an exciting and memorable victory and even taking the country to a World Cup final against India which is even now the talk that the game was lost in controversial fashion.
From the time Sangakkara took to the game, incidentally he was also a fine tennis player and may have made ripples had he continued, cricket was what he loved most and concentrated on it and what he has achieved speak for itself.
Sangakkara’s mother and father Kumari and Khedinsma who spotted the early talent in him as willow wielder laid the correct pitch and encouraged him and gave him all the confidence to continue his cricket and make history for the game and country.
Incidentally his father ‘Kshema’ was a more than ordinary promising athlete at St. Anthony’s College, Kandy and would have gone places. But his education came first and he had to put aside his spikes to do his law studies and is today one of the leading Attorney’s in Kandy.
Son Kumar too had it in him to be a brilliant attorney, but his love for cricket has deprived him of doing so and today he is spending his talents promoting the game and the country. He can be described as a prophet without honour other than in his own country.
The writer remembers a story told by Richard Dwight a former Saracens cricketer and who was a cricket correspondent for the ‘Daily News’.
As Sport Editor of the ‘Daily News’ at that time I marked Richard to cover the inter-school match between S. Thomas’ and Trinity at the ground by the sea in Mount Lavinia.
After the day’s play Richard walked in, in a jubilant mood took his seat and sat flabbergasted stuttering to describe a happening at the match. I asked him ‘Richard why are you so excited?
Richard began to talk and said: ‘Elmo, with all my cricketing experience playing and writing cricket, I was delighted and deemed it lucky to watch an innings of rare beauty, class and elegance played by a left handed youngster,” whose name he said was Kumar Sangakkara. Kumar made 150 odd in that game and Richard predicted that the youngster had the cricket world ahead of him. Need we say more. Kumar has lived up to Richard’s prediction.
Trinity have produced many talented cricketers and those that come to mind are- T.B. Werapitiya, Nimal Maralande, Malsiri Kurukulasuriya, Harindra Dunuwille, Himendra Ranaweera, Nihal Marambe, Kaushalya Weeraratne and the latest Niroshan Dickwella.
Sangakkara was a stylish left hand batsman of rare class. Those who coached him among them being Upananda Jayasundera, a former 1964 Dharmaraja College captain and the famous Bertie Wijesinha predicted an unlimited future for him that will take him to the top in world cricket. His father gave him all the help and encouragement needed to go places. And he has relished it and is today a standout Sri Lankan hero.
The first Sri Lankan cricketer to be inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame was Kandy Antonian Muttiah Muralidaran who bagged a record 800 Test wickets. The new list of inductees are –Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka), Aubrey Faulkner (South Africa), Monty Noble (Australia), Sir Learie Constantine (West Indies), Stan McCabe (Australia), Ted Dexter (England), Vinoo Mankad (India), Desmond Haynes (West Indies), Bob Willis (England) and Andy Flower (Zimbabwe).