A farewell letter to Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara
Dear Mahela and Sanga,
The thing about greatness is that it is often overestimated. And sport has this tendency of conferring greatness on a player who is just consistently “good”.
In the past two years, the cricketing world has bid farewell to some great cricketers – Jacques Kallis, Michael Hussey, Graeme Smith and of course Sachin Tendulkar. And now, you both have joined that list. When it comes to being great, there is no doubt that you both fit in perfectly.
For a long part of your respective careers, you have been unfancied competitors. You have quietly gone about your business scoring hundreds, double hundreds, keeping wickets, breaking records, captaining sides and winning games.
It has not been easy playing at a time when the Australians were dominating world cricket or when the Indians began asserting themselves on the big stage. For a large part of your careers, you have relatively been unknown in comparison to some other stalwarts. When it comes to legends, Sri Lankan cricket often seems to remember Murali or Jayasuriya.
But it would be criminal to label you anything less than legends.
We know that for a long time, Sri Lankan cricket has been in absolute turmoil. False promises, unpaid wages and dirty politics; these terms pretty aptly describe what your board has been doing for some time (trust me, apart from the unpaid wages part, the BCCI has been doing the same for a long time). Ignoring all this kippage, you went on doing your job like a thorough professionals, and that is admirable.
Here in India, we adore Sachin Tendulkar and rightly so. I grew up watching him and the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman play. They were astonishing, and I became attached to them. They serve as great reference points in our lives.
But somewhere down the line, I became attached to both of you as well. And that is not just because of your cover-drives or pull-shots or late cuts. There is a certain charisma about you both which cricket lovers have for long failed to see.
You both grew up in a strife torn country. We may try to imagine what that must be like, but we just can’t realize the import of it fully. Bullets, grenades, dead people and all things violent – that was your country when you grew up. But as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
You guys were a part of a team which lost four ICC tournament finals in a span of five years. Everytime you made it to the final, I was sure you were going to win it. But that just did not happen. I have from a young age believed in God (not so much in religion) and after every final you lost, I felt that the one above there had been cruel.
There is no denying that he hasn’t been so. I can think of so many players from the 2011 Indian World Cup winning squad who should never have lifted that trophy. But they did, and that is an evidence of God’s cruelty.
Defeats in finals never deterred you; you kept coming back. Personally for me, it was a matter of great joy and relief to see you lift the Asia Cup and then the World T20 trophy. I don’t know when and how, but my loyalties had shifted to your side.
Coming into the 2015 World Cup, I was hoping Sri Lanka could win the tournament and in the process give you the perfect farewell. Sri Lanka weren't the favourites heading into the tournament and the quarterfinal display clearly depicts that.
I was hoping for a fairytale ending to your careers but that didn’t happen. The quarterfinal match marks the beginning of the end for you both.
I wouldn’t like to end by saying goodbye because, as J.M. Barrie puts it, “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”
Thank you for the memories.
An Indian fan