Michael Roberts, courtesy of Island Cricket on 3rd March 2015…. where the early bloggers were aroused and up in arms. Different images (mostly) are deployed in this version while a Bibliography and EndNotes embellish the work. Readers are encouraged to pursue the hyperlinks and the Bbbliographical references.
Kumar Sangakkara is an ecumenical Sri Lankan and an exemplary icon for all and sundry. As a cricketer he stands among the best the world has seen — yesterday as well as today. Yet he is also a PERIL — to himself, the other batsman with him in the middle and thus to Sri Lanka as a whole. His running between the wickets is bloody awful.
This is a pity. He is such a talisman for most Sri Lankans of all ethnicities and religious faiths. When the tsunami wrought havoc along the coasts of the island in late 2004, he joined Murali, Mahela, Charlie Austin and others in relief efforts in the eastern littoral.
He has happily joined Kushil Gunasekera and his Foundation of Goodness in sponsoring community charity efforts across the ethnic divide. This path of reconciliation has resulted in a series of cricket matches for the “Murali Cup” between Under 19 teams from north and south west. It spawned a combined Under 19 team, called the “Unity Team,” which toured Singapore and then, with the active support of Ian Botham and his daughter, Sarah, met three high-profile teams in England during the summer of 2014. More recently, he has added his celebrity status to the infra-structural medical charity work centred on Batticaloa that has been launched by the Strathmore Rotary of Melbourne guided by Nihal de Run and Dr. David Young.
Of these many lines of exemplary community service, however, what stands out most in my mind was the initiative taken by Kumar and Yehali Sangakkara in visiting St. Patrick’s College in Jaffna town in April 2011, immediately after the World Cup held (partly) in Sri Lanka. This was an olive branch across the Sinhala-Tamil ethnic divide. Those attuned to local nuances would have perceived other threads within this olive branch: here was a Buddhist protégé from a leading Anglican school (Trinity College, Kandy) gracing and inspiring Tamil lads from a leading Catholic school. Be that as it may, the pictures of that event suggest that it was a moment that, so to speak, launched a thousand ships.
It was in the same spirit and along incisive cerebral lines that he addressed an august audience within the portals of the MCC in the course of his “Spirit of Cricket” Cowdrey Lecture in 2011. That is why, to repeat, I have lauded him as an “ecumenical Sri Lankan” and a talisman for our times.
Thus, in short, Kumar Sangakkara is a Sri Lankan colossus … a shining yodayā or giant in our time, deploying his celebrity status in ways intelligent, embracing, caring, accommodating and reconciling.
Kumar has also made his presence felt on the cricket field on behalf of — and for — Sri Lanka. Known among his colleagues for assiduous preparation and dedicated attention to detail, his record in Test Cricket has been outstanding. Beginning as a wicket-keeper batsman, his batting achievements moved up several notches once he was persuaded to discard the gloves. In 225 innings he has accumulated 12,203 runs at an average of 58.66. He is presently fifth in the list of all-time scoring greats — standing behind Tendulkar, Ponting, Kallis and Dravid. Remarkably, he has the best average of the lot!
In 50-over ODI cricket he has continued to serve Lanka as keeper. His batting has remained superlative and solid. In 377 innings thus far he has accumulated 13,961 runs at an average of 41.55 and a respectable strike-rate of 78.65. Both average and S/R are still climbing it seems: during the ongoing World Cup he has last two innings have been simply scintillating and he has remained not out with centuries to his credit. His 105 runs vs Bangladesh were acquired at a rate of 138.15; while his 117 runs vs England were at 136.04.
In the recent contest with England at Wellington his batting was solid at the start, but became as majestic as commanding in the latter half. Take note of Andrew McGlashan’s passing comment in ESPNcricinfo: “In a sign of how Sangakkara dominated, check this. When Thirimanne moved into the 90s Sangakkara was on 28 but had reached 78 by the time Thirimanne squeezed the single to reach his landmark…”
Helping Thirimanne with Crazy Running Calls!
It was precisely at this point that he revealed an Achilles Heel as batsman: his calls for runs and his running between wickets. Keen to assist Thirimanne reach the magic target of 100 individual runs, as non-striker he called for a run where there was no run. Not once, but twice in succession in the same over. On both occasions he scrambled back to the bowling end in a fashion as frantic as ridiculous! Also funny…. but only funny because he remained alive.
He was also lucky. A pinpoint hit may have seen him out. Cricket being the game that it is, one subject to sudden swings of fortune (witness the Aussie-Kiwi game when ‘revolutions’ occurred at least twice), such an outcome could have been disastrous for Sri Lanka.
So, in seeking to assist his mate Lahiru, Sangakkara ventured on running paths hara-kiri. If this was an odd aberration, one could let it pass. But it is not. For one, in the match against Afghanistan (or was it Bangladesh?) I recollect that he made erroneous calls and advances down the pitch where he or his partner should have been run out on two occasions if not for fielding lapses — a gross miss by an inexperienced fielder in one instance.
I believe that the TV commentators have occasionally remarked on the fragility surrounding his decision-making in calls for runs or poor communication with his batting partner. Readers with total recall and/or statistical prowess may be able to supplement our assessments in this field.
The World Cup 2015 is still in question. Kumar must reign in his perilous running between the wickets, while hopefully continuing to mine a rich vein of runs in the beautiful manner he has displayed thus far.
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
Michael Roberts: “Sangakkaras visit St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna,” 12 April 2011, http://thuppahis.com/2011/04/12/sangakkaras-visit-st-patricks-college-jaffna/
Michael Roberts: “Kumar Sangakkara’s Ecumenical Lankan Nationalism,” 9 July 2011, http://thuppahis.com/2011/07/09/kumar-sangakkara%e2%80%99s-ecumenical-lankan-nationalism/
Thuppahi: “Murali Harmony Cup serves the Northern Province and deploys Cricket in the Work of Reconciliation,” 8 September 2012, http://thuppahis.com/2012/09/08/6956/
Thuppahi: “Kumar and Mahela … Cricket and Reconciliation… Northern Empowerment … via Alison’s Tea Break,” 12 October 2012, http://thuppahis.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, http://thuppahis.com/2012/10/16/yunity-team-sponsored-by-emirates-to-play-cricket-in-singapore-and-promote-fogs-work-of-reconciliation/
Michael Roberts: “Run-Out Cricket,” in Roberts, Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006, pp. 151-53.
Michael Roberts: “Engeltine Cottage in Kandy: The Intertwining of Three Families — Pieris, Sangakkara and Krishnapillai,” 4 April 2012, http://thuppahis.com/2012/04/04/engeltine-cottage-in-kandy-the-intertwining-of-three-families-pieris–sangakkara–and-krishnapillai/
Thuppahi: “Project BEAP: Dr. Young and Strathmore Rotary forge a Major ‘Runway’ of Medical Relief in Lanka,” 4 February 2015, https://thuppahis.com/2015/02/04/project-beap-dr-young-and-strathmore-forge-a-major-runway-of-medical-relief-in-lanka/
Rohana R. Wasala: “To be Truly Lankan,” The Island, 9 July 2011.
Kumar Sangakkara: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket – A Celebration of Our Uniqueness,” 4 July 2011, http://www.espncricinfo.com/srilanka/content/story/522183.html.
Kumar & Yehali with twins Kavith & Swyree — Pic from www.flickr.com
*** **** ENDNOTES
 This type of failure was commonplace in Sri Lankan cricket in the distant past –so much so that I composed an article in 2003 which highlighted specific instances of gross failures in adhering to cardinal rules of good practice in running (see reprint of this essay in Essaying Cricket, 2006: 151-53). Note, too, that one instance of such a basic failure involved Sangakkara in an ODI game at Adelaide where I was among the audience. Here, in my assessment both Sangakkara and Jayasuriya were at fault and their mid-pitch collision led to the latter’s dismissal when in full flight.
 It is a measure of the MCC’s ethos that it had supported the activities of the Foundation of Goodness (FOG) from way back. The cross-cutting linkages between sports-oriented charity and reconciliation endeavours were only too evident when, in the midst of the World Cup in 20111, the Laureus Foundation in which Sir Ian Botham is a key figure sponsored a media event and a symbolic visit by helicopter to Mankulam where FOG hoped to site centre of excellence. Guess who graced the podium on that occasion in the Taj Samudra: none other than Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Botham, Sangakkara, Murali, Michael Vaughan and Kushil Gunasekera.
 The inaugural Cowdrey Lecture was delivered by Ritchie Benaud to audience of invited guests in 2001. In following years Barry Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Clive Lloyd, Geoffrey Boycott, Martin Crowe, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Revd Desmond Tutu, Adam Gilchrist and Imran Khan preceded Sangakkara (2011) in this role. Since then, Tony Greig, Simon Taufel and Sir Ian Botham have made the presentation. Alas, both CMJ and Tony are no longer with us.