Kumara: Sangakkara's emotional speech at the recent MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture will rank among the best speeches by any cricketer.
Available both in audio and printable format on different websites, it is a moving speech on the spirit of Sri Lankan cricket.
For me personally, Sri Lankan cricket and cricketers have always been role models. The rise of this nation to the pinnacle of cricketing glory is admirable.
From my birthplace Trivandrum, now known as Thiruvananthapuram, Sri Lanka (called Ceylon earlier) was just a half hour flight away. Many cricketers from this island would come and play tournaments in Kerala and Madras.
I have been among the fortunate few to watch their former great players like Anura Tennakoon, wicketkeeper David Heyn, Lalith Kaluperuma and Banda Kehelgamuwa during a match against Kerala in the '70s in Trivandrum.
What impressed me even then was their absolute humility despite their talent. Schools cricket was so popular in Sri Lanka then that even their popular radio channel Radio Ceylon would broadcast live commentary of their inter-school matches. They revered schools cricket and that laid the foundation for some of their future great players.
Years later, I got the opportunity to interact with Arjuna Ranatunga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sangakkara. They were no different from their past stars given the fact that almost all of these players have crossed and achieved many milestones.
During my recent visit to Colombo for the World Cup, when I enquired about this particular quality in their cricketers, I was told that it had to do with the excellent schooling and the active involvement of parents in sports.
And this was visible during the Desert Cubs Cricket Academy (DCCA) versus G Force Cricket Academy Inter-Academy under-15 final in Dubai. All parents of the DCCA players were there for the final and they turned it into a carnival. Though DCCA lost, the manner in which way they pacified their children and got them to sportingly accept defeat was a treat to watch.
Sangakkara is a delight to be interviewed. He is among the world's most intelligent cricketers and can express his views with the right choice of words. In his speech, he revealed how political interference is destroying the spirit of the game in his country.
It will be unfortunate if a cricketing nation with such passion for the game falls prey to unscrupulous politicians. Every Sri Lankan citizen must rise to protect their cricket which is an embodiment of what a small island can achieve through team spirit and sportsmanship.