No more Rudi shocks for Kumar Sangakkara

Peter Lalor, in The Australian, 12 December 2012

kuamr s pads upHobart owes Kumar Sangakkara. Here, in 2007, the brilliant Sri Lankan was on 192 when Rudi Koertzen gave him out caught off the shoulder/helmet. The South African umpire apologised to the left-hander – who also scored a half century in the match – after seeing a replay.[1] Sangakkara has passed 200 on eight occasions; only Brian Lara (9) and Don Bradman (12) have done it more often. The veteran, back in Australia for just the second Test series in his 12-year career, averages 65 on these shores, but neither he nor his side has ever won a Test. At 35, he is keen to taste success here, even though he could be back. Asked if this was his last tour of Australia, he thought there was a chance he would get one more.

“Everyone gets older,” Sangakkara said. “You can’t stop that, unfortunately. “When you do get older, you do look for achievements where you haven’t really tasted victory, so here and in India (there are) Test matches still to win. That’s a great motivator for guys like (Tillakaratne) Dilshan, Mahela (Jayawardene), myself and (Thilan) Samaraweena – we’re the older brigade – but whether we get it or not, the key is to really contribute to the side. Everyone’s got an expiry date, I think. It’s no use worrying about when that comes or when that is. It’s about really enjoying your cricket.”

SANGA wins awardsSangakkara is the reigning ICC cricketer of the year, having scored his Test runs at an average of 60. The son of a jurist, he is not exactly your average cricketer. Head boy at Kandy’s prestigious Trinity College, the batsman studied law at Colombo University before giving it up to pursue the life of a sportsman.

In his celebrated MCC Spirit of Cricket lecture last year, he spoke of his and his country’s love of the game and of how his family had given shelter to 35 Tamils at the height of the civil war — a situation the naive child delighted in as it meant he had on hand at the family home plenty of opponents for backyard cricket matches.

His school coach was shot twice during those troubled times and survived only after a gun aimed at his head failed to fire.[2]

Sangakkara maintains the one thing that has brought his war-torn country together is cricket and claims the 1996 World Cup victory encouraged grassroots participation in what had been an elitist game. That allowed Sri Lankan cricket to believe it could match it with the best. A win in this series may not have the same symbolic impact, but it would be another achievement for a nation that was welcomed to world cricket only in 1981.

Since abandoning the wicket-keeping role, Sangakkara has improved his batting average dramatically and it is now above 55. He needs just 107 runs on this tour to reach 10,000 career runs. He is second on the all-time list of Sri Lankan batsman (behind Jayawardene with 10,640).

Sangakkarra says he was not worried by reports the Bellerive Oval deck was one of the liveliest in the country. “There’s been a bit of nibble about and it’s been sporting to both sides,” he said. “Wickets like this make fast bowlers really enthusiastic to go and play. Also it elevates guys who don’t have that much pace but it also makes them really good on sporting tracks. If it stays the same, I think our fast bowlers too will have a really good chance against the Aussie batsmen.”

vlcsnap-997060Sangakkara ICC awards

 SANGA and David R'son-island
ALSO SEE “Engeltine Cottage in Kandy: The Intertwining of Three Families — Pieris, Sangakkara and Krishnapillai,” by Michael Roberts, 4 April 2012,
 Mr and Mrs Sangakkara and their residence in Kandy OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADH and DS de Silva at Premadasa Stadium in 2011

[1] Neville Turner, who watched the whole Test match, reckons this innings to be among the best six he has seen live [ and he has seen hundreds of Test matches from ball one to end].

[2] The person referred to is DH (Hema) de Silva. DH was not Sanga’s school coach, but his tennis coach. However, as a former Ceylon cap and astute cricketer (one who impressed sobers the bowler) he would certainly have mentored the young Kumar in cricket. The friendship between the two families was such that Sangakkara pater and mater stayed with de Silva relatives in UK when Kumar went on his first tour of England. DH was Municipal Commissioner of Kandy when he refused to abide by JVP threats in the late 1980s. He was shot by a JVP killer when playing tennis. Lalor has got this right: after the first shot the killer’s gun jammed when he was at even closer range. I believe DH’s son hit him with his racquet and the gunman ran off. DH –“Hema” as he is to me from Ramanathan Hall days– left Lanka for good when he recovered from his wound and now lives in Melbourne. Michael Roberts

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