By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka’s batting icon Kumar Sangakkara said that he was shocked when a couple of years back his father asked him whether he had not started thinking about retiring from cricket.
“I thought, “What are you trying to tell me? That I’m not good enough?” But then speaking to my mind, it actually made some sense,” said Sangakkara speaking to a packed media audience at the end of the third day of the second Test against Pakistan at the P Sara Oval where he made an official announcement about his retirement plans.
“It was back in 2012 or 2013 when he asked me that, and it struck home. Maybe it was time I paid attention to what’s happening. Then when I had my back injury against India and I came back, I realised this was going to be my last World Cup, it just kind of felt right.
“It’s a funny thing. Everyone knows that the time is right. The real thing is to decide whether to listen to that voice in your head, or you’re going to ignore it. It’s very easy to ignore.
“I’m going to finish because for 15 years, this is all I’ve known, and this is all I’ve done. It’s a bit scary as well to think of a time when you’re not playing for Sri Lanka. What are you going to do?”
Sangakkara revealed that he had thought of retiring from international even before his close friend Mahela Jayawardene.
“It was strange because I had decided before him to start writing a letter, when he called me and told me that he was retiring. I said, “OK, that’s fine. We can’t have two people going at the same time.” But that voice was telling me that, and I decided to listen to it.
“I spoke to my father, and I spoke to my family. My wife told me that playing for Sri Lanka would be great for us as a family, because that meant I’d be spending a year at home. But even she felt that it was time for me to call it a day. When I heard that, I realised it was absolutely the right decision for me to make.”
Sangakkara will play his final Test in the second Test of the Indian series which is scheduled to be played at the P Sara Oval starting August 26.
“I have decided to call it a day on my international career during the second Test of the Indian series. This was the commitment I had made with the previous selection committee. I had originally planned to retire after the World Cup, but following discussions with the previous selectors I gave the commitment that I will be available for these two series,” said Sangakkara.
“At the same time I said that I would be unable to play six Test matches, but I could do four and if that was okay and I would give 100 percent of my commitment to these four Tests. Once they said this was okay, I decided that I would extend. I am keeping my word by playing the four Test matches and deciding to call it an end after the second Test against India.”
Sangakkara who has two-year contract with English county Surrey said that he would not completely stop playing cricket after he retires from the international scene.
“I don’t think I can just completely stop playing cricket. I’ll be playing a bit of cricket for the next 2 1/2 to 3 years. It’s tough. I’m going to miss playing for Sri Lanka a hell of a lot, without a doubt. But at the same time, the high pressure is gone, the whole pressure cooker atmosphere of playing a one-day match and a Test match – all of that is gone,” said Sangakkara.
“There is a little bit of a sense of relief when you walk out playing for a county or playing for a franchise, where the intensity is different. My plans are to play a bit of cricket, keep in touch for a while, and then find a real job after a while.”
When asked about his plans when he has finally hung up his boots Sangakkara said, “I think I’d make a bad coach. It’s a tough job and it takes a special kind of person. It’s never about what you really know it’s about how you handle a lot of players. I don’t know if I’ll have the players to deal with individuals in that manner.
“Every cricketer who has gone from Sri Lanka is always available to be of service at any time – to give whatever they can back to the sport. I’ll be available at any time, if there’s anything ever needed of me. Cricket’s given me so much. Sri Lankan cricket has given me everything that I have right now. I owe it a very deep debt of gratitude, and I’ll be available at any time to serve it when and if they see fit to call on me.
“I have enjoyed my time playing for Sri Lanka. It’s the greatest honour apart from my family and my friends. I have enjoyed all formats of the game, but donning the whites for Sri Lanka has a special place. I have had the best of times, I have had disappointments and regrets and all that.
“At the end of the day I can walk away very happy knowing the disappointments outnumber the good things by far. I wish I could keep on playing,. But I know when the time comes you have to go and this is my time.”