When living legends decide to call it a day, there are predictable responses. Here are some: There’s still something more you can give. You are not ready to retire (read: we are not ready for you to retire). You can’t just leave like that (read: we own your life and you didn’t obtain permission)! What will we do without you? It’s the end of the world (an unarticulated thought). Things will never be the same without you. No one can replace you!
The last is true when it comes to true legends. In cricket, there’s only one Don Bradman and only one Muttiah Muralitharan. There’s only one Jonty Rhodes. There’s only one Jehan Mubarak, one Dilhara Fernando, one Trevor Chappell, one Marcus Trescothick, one Hansi Cronje etc., etc. Everyone is a one-of-a-kind, true but some of them are replaceable and are less missed once they hang up their boots than others. Like Bradman, Murali and Jonty for example.
Like Sanga. Kumar Sangakkara.
Alright. He’s entertained. He’s raised the national flag high(er). He’s made us all feel proud, made us feel a bit taller on occasion. He’s done the whole nine yards and a couple of extra inches too. He had the strokes, the words and the numbers. His name is ‘right up there’ wherever ‘there’ maybe in the cricketing universe. He’s played his innings. He has left the ground and the building to applause and tears. All that will get written.
But let’s get to the real question. The true response to this ‘situation’. How will we live without Sanga?
Well, here are some blunt answers:
The way we lived before anyone had heard of Kumar Sangakkara. The way people lived before and after Murali, before and after Arjuna, Aravinda, Vaas, Sanath and Mahela. The way people lived before and after all the great cricketers no one remembers today. The way we lived during thirty years of checkpoints and explosions, body bags and fear. The way we lived before we heard about cricket, as in when we were babies. The way we will live when we won’t remember what cricket means, as in when we’ve lost our minds.
Rewind to four days in the month of July in the year 2000, 20th-23rd to be exact. A young man who was 22 years, 8 months and 23days old played his first Test. At 22 plus he was no ‘prodigy’. Younger than M.S. Dhoni when he played his first Test and much older than Tendulkar when he did. He was the 84th player to represent Sri Lanka in a Test match. Nothing special about that either.
Sri Lanka defeated South African in Galle by an innings and 15 runs. Sangakkara score just 23. As replacement keeper to Romesh Kaluwitharana, he took two catches (both off Murali) and was effected a run-out, combining with Chaminda Vaas. Murali had a match bag of 13 wickets (6 for 87 and 7 for 84). And, by the way, Sanath Jayasuriya captained that game and as such would have had to offer the customary match comments at the post-match show.
Kumar Sangakkara did a bit, here and there, during those four days, but few would have noticed. No one, one could wager, would have envisaged that 15 years and a month later when Kumar Sangakkara scored just 32 and 18, no one could think of anyone else who played in that Test — not the centurions (Rahul, Matthews and Rahane) and not Ashwin who took 5 wickets in the second innings to help India win by an innings and 278 runs. No one could have imagined that there could even be a question like ‘how do we live without Kumar Sangakkara?’
That’s how it goes in this thing called life and this thing called living.
One of these days a young man will play his first Test and no one will take much notice. Years later, almost everyone will wonder how we’ll get by once he retires. Many will shed a tear when he says ‘this is it guys, I am done, time to go’. His name won’t be Kumar Sangakkara.
So that’s it. People come and go. Legends too. We didn’t fall over and die because there was no Kumar Sangakkara around and neither will we fall and die because he has decided to call it a day.
We are glad he’s a fellow citizen, we are grateful for all the joy, but we have to get by without him just as he has to get by without the applause from the stands. Life goes on. Life without Kumar Sangakkara. It’s not the end of the world.