It all began a decade ago, when two stalwarts of world cricket tangoed together to maul a bowling attack that contained an astute leg break bowler in it on a tricky track in Dambulla during the Asia Cup, or may be a year ago when one of them, the southpaw raised his bat celebrating his first ODI century in Sharjah. Turning the pages of History books, I find little vestige of personalities that have managed to inspire a generation and to unite a politically and ethnically divided country fervently during times of great sorrows. In a country where there is a dearth of leaders and people who can altruistically envision the future of the nation and where magnanimity, honesty, patriotism and scrupulousness exist only in history books, the services of Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara and Denagamage Praboth Mahela de Silva Jayawardene should not only garnish the cricketing books but should also hallow the divine pages of Mahavamsa.
Being someone very fortunate to have witnessed the Mahela-Sanga era, I will be discussing in this post what made me admire these two over some of my other eminent inspirations: Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs.
What makes you admire a person so much that you cast your life on the moulds of theirs? For the devil-may-cares, it might be their demeanor, debonair and poise, for the nerds it’s the spirit that oozes from perfection, inherent qualities that run them and the virtues they abide by. Whichever category you may belong to, you will definitely admire this duo.
It’s far too easy to win a child’s heart than inspiring a late teenager. The latter requires stringent perfection and exacting qualities. You need to set an example and show him the glimpse of his own life in the future in yours. As a child they won my heart and now they have inspired me.
In Dambulla in 2004, Sanga and Mahela put together a laborious effort to lift Sri Lanka to 282 from 156. Their partnership didn’t involve brutal power hitting or blind batting. Their partnership was brimmed with quick singles and risk free fours. When Sanga got out and took his helmet off, the labour behind the innings could clearly be seen in the sweat that had made him look like someone who is drenched in rain.
Mahela is quintessential of how things can be done easily. If Mahela was born an assassin who kills people for money, he would have shown you how people can be killed artistically, that you fail to pity the victim but stand and admire the way he is put to death. Give Mahela a brush, he will make a wonderful painting. His batting is born of class, embellished with exquisite, elegant and gorgeous shot makings. His batting is always an aesthete’s delight.
Though his numbers never speak for the impact he had and has in his team, more often than not he has produced innings of substance when his team needed him the most. His century in the 2011 World Cup Final was an epitome of how fluidly runs can be scored quickly. Sri Lanka is yet to forget the century he scored in the 2007 world cup semi-final. His century against Zimbabwe in World T20 2010 which was succeeded by a 98 against the West Indies are still the best classic innings played in the T20 stage.
Sanga on the other hand was the more belligerent and the more impulsive of the two. His batting often brought the stability into Sri Lanka’s innings after the vortex of Jaysuriya or Dilshan comes to an end. His batting was born out of sheer perfection, concerted practice and impeccable concentration. If Mahela is an example of how making maximum use of your talents can help you succeed in life, Sanga is an example of how hard work can take you to your destiny sans innate talents.
Sri Lanka cricket’s talent pool is so vast that, we may already have found players who can fill into these two’s shoes. But where these two can never be replaced is off the field. You can never find good diplomats, ambassadors, schemers and tacticians like Sangakkara and Mahela even in the political hierarchy of the country. During their tenure they have seen many Cricket Boards come and go, many Selection Panels that meddled with the lineups and sometimes even baiting these two. But these two held the team together amidst various external plights. It might sound easy in English and Australian conditions. But to do it in Sri Lanka where even the games administrators would not act in the best interest of sport, venturing to save the sport that against the admins of the game deserves a lot of adulation.
Both Sanga’s and Mahela’s resignation from the helm had political backgrounds with both the Board and Ministry having their fair share. Media, especially after war, citing the lack of news often targeted the countries most loved ones for hypes and dramas. They were often blamed for the team’s failure. Fans cried out for their sacking from the team when they slumped to out of form. Many hated the lack of luster in the batting, in an era where the whole batting lineup of our neighbors can thwack balls for sixes at will. But they have single handedly shouldered the responsibility of taking Sri Lanka Cricket forward. Perhaps they had better plans for Sri Lanka Cricket’s future than the hierarchy.
Having born with a silver tongue Sangakkara in 2011 achieved what no other cricketer has ever achieved. He was granted the prestigious opportunity to deliver the Cowdrey Lecturer, becoming the first active cricketer to do so. There he vibrantly spoke of Sri Lanka’s cricket history, it’s thirst and hunger for the game and how the power mongrels at home try to ravish the hallowed sport to make money.
Kumar Sangakkara in 2012 and 2013 did something unprecedented for our politicians by being surrounded by Tamil Youths passionately during the Murali Cup. He is by far the only personality in the country who can unite people of all races unite fervently, a luxury that has eluded most of our politicians. It may be a bit absurd to say now, but Sangakkara can only do goods, if he can one day reach the helm of the administrative hierarchy of the country, for he is the only person who can envision a bright future for the country and unite people fervently under him and then perhaps an underachieving nation can then march steadily towards proper development.
While the last pages of a well compiled novel is being read scrupulously, we know that these two legends have given us more than enough memories, which we would reminisce with glee, and if they can bring us the silverware at least in one of their last two attempts, then that would consummate a picture-perfect pair of carriers. If the so called god ever exists and if he appears in front of any one of those ardent Sri Lanka cricket fans, all what he would wish is that Mahela and Sanga never age!