Sangakkara, cricket's articulate ambassador, seems game for more
Signing off with a status as an all-time great secured, Kumar Sangakkara was very much the articulate ambassador for the game. He will call time on his career with the second Test in Colombo, and this will be his final appearance at his favourite Galle.Updated: Aug 12, 2015 06:24 IST
On an August day 14 years ago, a 23-year-old Sri Lanka wicketkeeper-batsman stood in the sun next to the sight-screen as he addressed a handful of journalists. He had just scored a maiden Test century against India, match-winning as it turned out. He had twice been dismissed in the 90s in the previous nine matches, and the knock had confirmed Kumar Sangakkara was a player for the future.
The Sri Lankan accent was minimal as the articulate youngster spoke about how he had put aspirations of becoming a lawyer aside to pursue his international cricket career. Unlike in August 2001, the weather was gloomy outside the press conference room in the swanky pavilion building that had replaced the old functional structure.
Signing off with a status as an all-time great secured, Sangakkara was very much the articulate ambassador for the game. He will call time on his career with the second Test in Colombo, and this will be his final appearance at his favourite Galle.
He answered every question elaborately, as expressive as ever, never too introspective or repetitive, in a 40-minute interaction, taking questions first in English and then in Sinhalese. We went beyond talking about his career and achievements, giving his take on Sri Lanka's future, world cricket's young stalwarts. He was reportedly reluctant to make a show of his retirement, but once he warmed up, he was every bit an elder statesman, happy to talk about others.
He chose to play on after the World Cup on a request by the Sri Lankan board to shepherd a young side, and will play on for another two seasons in events around the world. Last year's Test series win in England tops his list of achievements while losing two World Cup finals will rankle.
His disarming ability to describe his game - how teammate Thilan Samaraweera gave the verdict that his forward-defence shot was the ugliest and Mahela Jayawardene and current coach Marvan Atapattu were the stylists - stood out. This from the man with 38 Test centuries, 11 of them double.
"They always say left-handers were extremely graceful. I watch Lara bat, Upul Tharanga and Lahiru Thirmanne from the younger lot. Whenever I play the cover drive, with the back knee bent and head back, I just say to myself how can that be stylish."
No Sri Lanka great feels complete without the Muttiah Muralitharan connect. Sanga narrated how the spinner teased Andrew Flintoff, his Lancashire teammate, asking the out-of-form batsman to take a single off the off-break he was going to bowl and get to the other end. Flintoff did take the offer, only to be out for four.
Sanga seemed game for more, a sentiment shared by fans and his teammates.