By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
As Kumar Sangakkara walked away from an international cricket field for the last time his final comments were: “I am sad, but there’s also a joy, because playing cricket everyday is not easy. There is pressure. There is lots of difficult work a struggle, a sacrifice. So if you look at it like that, there is some relief. That pressure and those expectations have been lifted off.”
Then on the same lines Sangakkara said, “But watching cricket is also not easy. That desire is still there. You have to get used to that. I hope that now I am out of the game, I’ll be able to appreciate the cricket that is played, and the young cricketers who are playing it.”
Describing how he spent the last five days of his final Test, Sangakkara explained, “It never hits you until the end comes and you finish the cricket and then you are out there talking about yourself in the past tense.
“But the game itself, preparation as usual was the same. The focus and putting the fact that it is my last Test behind me the emotion used to come at the end of the day, knowing that the countdown had started.
“But unfortunately, we didn’t play as well as we could. India played a fantastic game of cricket. But from a personal point of view, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it even though ending up on the losing side is disappointing. I was very, glad that I have been fortunate enough to play another Test match.”
What was the emotion after his last dismissal?
“The moment I got out the usual disappointment and frustration is there, because my job is to try and stay there till the end of the day. But when I was walking off and all the Indian players came and shook my hand that is when it hit me, that’s it real,” said Sangakkara.
“Going back into the dressing room and taking the pads off it just hits you that it is the last time you will be doing that in national colours. There’s a note of finality in that.”
Sangakkara said there were a lot of special moments in his life as a cricketer but none so that today where every member of his family was present to see him play.
“Today was always going to be special for a lot of reasons. It was the first time that I had my parents, my children, by siblings, and my wife all together at one place, watching me play. That is always going to be the memorable part of my game not the onfield part,” said Sangakkara.
“But not being able to spend time with my wife, children and parents. My parents have never made a fuss of anything. They rarely come to the games or see me off during the games. But they keenly follow my game.
“That has really helped keep me grounded throughout everything I have gone through. Those are the real memorable moments, because once I am finished, I’ll miss the game, but I know I have the security,” he said.
Describing what had made him a legend Sangakkara said, “Tough (to say). I think it’s in the way my work ethic changed. I found a bit more about myself, and I found out a way that I would work. It doesn’t work the same for everyone. But for me it was a case of working, changing, working, changing and trying to find a formula. More often than not, I was fortunate that what I tried worked.
“I wish there was a secret like I knew exactly what’s working. At times you just don’t know what is working and you keep doing it. You don’t count the teeth of a gift horse when it’s running. You change it only when you hit a stumbling block and try something new.”
Has the years seen a change in his personality?
“I have grown a lot mellow. I was a bit feisty when I started. Lots more relaxed when it comes to approaching and preparing for the game. I have learnt not to get lost in the game too much when I am away from it. At the end of the day, you play an amazing and unique sport, but you got to play it as a sport,” said Sangakkara.
“You need to play it with an almost childish wonder, where you just play and you enjoy. If it doesn’t work, you give up with disappointment, come back and try and enjoy the game. If you have that attitude and that kind of perception of the game, I think that kind of changed me. I have been able to let it go and come back with a bit of balance. I don’t know how that happened. It’s a gradual change.”
Sangakkara said that with his retirement Sri Lanka would not die a natural death.
“The younger generation takes their cricket very seriously. They take their commitment very seriously and I know when you are in the dressing room, when you lose, you see the disappointment and the hurt. Without a doubt, that will drive them on to do much better,” said Sangakkara.
“It will take some time for them to find their feet, it is a very young team but the way they are going about their preparation, their work ethic, their commitment, no one can fault them for that. The harder they work, the better they will become for it and I am sure you will see them take Sri Lanka cricket farther and higher in future.”