Kumar Sangakkara, one of Sri Lanka’s iconic cricketers, will be kissing goodbye to a stellar international career in the second Test against Indians next week at Colombo. One of the most accomplished wicketkeeper-batsmen in the history of the game, the 37-year-old spoke at length on his decade and a half international career.
From choosing to pull the plug in the second Test to the Lahore incident when Sri Lankan team was attacked by gun-wielding terrorists, the legend touched upon various aspects. Excerpts.
Why did you chose to retire midway?
The reason for playing just two Tests is not ideal, but that was an agreement I had with the previous selection committee when I was discussing my future. Because I had plans to retire immediately after the World Cup but they wanted me to try and play a bit more Test cricket. This was all I could offer them and I said as long as they were ok and the Board is ok with that I will be willing to play four more Test matches. They were ok with that and I said if they were not, they tell me that and that would be fine. That’s why it’s a two against Pakistan and two against India.
How would you like to be remembered?
I think everyone remembers you differently. When you play, you see yourself in one way, when you retire, you see yourself as slightly better than what you actually were. That’s the way cricketers are. But I just want to be remembered as just who I was, how I played and how I interacted with the team in the dressing room. The experiences we have shared together, the wins, the losses, everything.
What are the stand-out moments?
The way we performed as a unit in big tournaments, that’s been the one thing that we can be very, very proud of. We can go into a big tournament with a really bad track record and really surprise teams and sometimes even surprise ourselves by how well we play in World Cups. And personally, all the wins we have had, especially away from home, beating Australia for the first time in a one-day series in 2010, T20 World Cup when we won it, all of these have been really standout moments for me. But also being, once Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Chaminda Vaas, Aravinda (de Silva) all of these guys left, part of a set-up that produced cricketers like Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga, Upul Tharanga and the one guy who has been outstanding and who is never spoken about is Rangana Herath. He has been an incredible servant of Sri Lankan cricket.
Was the Lahore bus attack in 2009 the lowest point?
I don’t know whether I will term it as the lowest point, it was one of the scariest points for sure. But I think again it was an experience especially for the Sri Lankan cricket team. We have been through a raging conflict, we were untouched directly by the war. And then we go to play cricket, which should be the safest environment for us and we get attacked. We had injuries and when I saw Thilan Samaraweera come back a month and a half later and score a Test hundred, after being shot in the leg and running the risk of not being able to play again maybe even die. That really brought home to us that being in a situation like that it is scary but the real point is to come out of it and come out of it strong.
How special is Galle for Sri Lankan cricketers?
I think Galle is special for all of Sri Lankan cricketers. It’s one of Murali’s (Muttiah Muralitharan) favourite hunting grounds and we have always managed to win a lot of Test matches here. It’s just the place, it’s my favourite Test ground in the world. I think as players, we love coming here because we know the conditions, we have always backed ourselves here.