Mahela and Kumar: Two Kings bearing Gifts

Steve Brown

More than 250 people attended the Knox Tavern recently for the fundraiser in aid of the Foundation of Goodness, the special guests being Sri Lankan superstars Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who hold the world record for any wicket in Test match history and responsible for in excess of 45,000 international runs.

The evening was hosted by well-known cricket author, the quick whited Gideon Haigh who created plenty humour and friendly banter.    Following a video presentation of the achievements and work of the Foundation of Goodness in Sri Lanka, post tsunami, founder of the charity, Kushil Gunasekera, thanked everyone for their attendance,

Cricket Australia’s Chairman, Wally Edwards, Cricket Victoria CEO Tony Dodemaide, both former Australian Test players and Sri Lankan Cricket Foundation of Victoria Chairman, Dr Quintus DeZylva were also present, lending their support.

Sangakkara addressed the audience first and he opened his innings by promising not to speak for one hour and ten minutes as he did in his address to the MCC at Lords in London last year. A polished performer, those in the room would not have minded if he broke his promise as he had the audience in his hands, with a personal plea for compassion in regards to the village of Seenigama, and for the new projects in the war torn north of Sri Lanka.

Jayawardene was next up, and he drew plenty of laughs when making the observation that in cricket he bats at No. 4 and follows Kumar at No. 3, however he felt that on this occasion in hindsight he should have reversed the batting order as it is always difficult to speak following a speech from Kumar. However fans were not disappointed as Mahela spoke with passion and emotion delivering a heartfelt assessment of the domestic situation in Sri Lanka, a project so close to his heart that he has personally paid for cricket equipment and facilities. The Sri Lankan captain spoke of rural areas where young boys did not know how to place a cricket pad on their legs and have never used a proper cricket bat, something not seen in Australia.

No doubt one of the highlights of the evening was the open forum where both players were asked to recall their memories of breaking the world record for any partnership in Test history, 624 runs against South Africa in Colombo in 2006.

Mahela responded, “I just remember going in to the tea break and someone came up to me and said that you only need 16 more runs to break the world record.  I started to panic as it was only 16 runs but I didn’t want to let down Kumar as he was my partner. It was a nervous 16 runs.”

Sangakkara added, “Early on in the innings we were in a bit of trouble and I can recall Dale Steyn bowling me for just 7 runs and as I was walking off, someone yelled out go back and I looked around and saw the umpire’s arm outstretched showing a no ball. I later played County cricket with Steyn at Warwickshire, and every time he sees me he says, “That no ball.  It cost us three more days in the field.”

One of a ‘signed series’ of framed photographs of the moment when they broke the record was auctioned and sold for $2,200.  The lucky purchaser then posed for a photograph with the players. A wonderful night was had by all with more than $20,000 raised with thanks to the organising committee of the David and Cathy Cruse and their family, Keith Thompson and Ron Meerwald.

 Dr Quintus de Zylva speaking 

 Kushil Gunasekera speaking

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