Category Archives: Kumar Sangakarra

Kumar Sangakarra’s Lecture

I just listened to Kumar Sangakarra’s Lord’s Lecture, an hour-long address every cricket-loving fan should download. It’s a truly ambitious speech that seeks to cover the history of Sri Lanka’s cricket, especially from 1996 to present. While most of the reaction has focused on Sangakarra’s criticism of Sri Lanka Cricket, the governing board, he devotes (by my count) about 10 minutes to the current administration’s foibles.

Say what you want about Sangakarra, but he is a smart man. He spends most of his address couching his criticism in strongly nationalist terms, offering ode after ode to Sri Lanka’s special “identity” and the greatness of players like Sanath Jayasuriya (now a political bigwig indulging the very tactics Sangakarra deplores in his speech). He was careful enough to cover all his bases, and now that he’s likely to be recalled by the Sports Minister, he can point to other moments in his text for his defense.

But what a history! Listening to the speech, you get a sense of the difficulty of being an international player from a South Asian country, especially due to the enlarged role of politics in almost everything you do, from the petty to the fundamental. Imagine a player like Murali: an Indian Tamil in a war-torn country; a much-hated figure in the West, constantly challenged abroad, but also scrutinized at every level at home. Consider this team’s recent past as well — a tsunami; a terrorist attack (described in vivid detail by Sangakarra); and the brutal end of the civil war.

I do have some quick notes and questions: 1) Sangakarra speaks often of a Sri Lankan ‘way’ of playing cricket. It’s true that part of cricket’s charm is its diversity, and people in the West Indies used to play differently from those in, say, India. It’s an open question, however, if that diversity will survive the game’s modernization, driven by coaches with video data and disciplined physiotherapists. What are we losing here?

1A) A related, but more difficult, question is whether or not such talk — like all nationalisms — stems from a crude and essentialist description of self-image. Is there really a Sri Lankan way of playing cricket? Is there an Indian style? If I were to describe it, would I risk setting up particular categories that seek to exclude as much as include? I understand the impulse — we want to set up our identity after centuries of colonization, whose chief discourse involved an unrelenting attack on local cultures. But need we construct false identities in response?

2) Part of the attraction of Sangakarra’s speech is his discussion of the Sri Lankan dressing room. In the early 2000s, he suggests that the team was driven by hierarchies and a collection of individuals, some of who “crossed the line” by interfering with the board and selectors. He then goes on to discuss Sri Lanka’s failing club structure, and the huge discretion afforded to its Sports Minister, who can dismiss whole teams on a whim. I wish more players would say what he did. It’s a huge risk, but imagine someone of Dravid or Tendulkar or Laxman’s stature making similar noises in India. Or is that a risk too big to take, even for them?

Kumar Sangakarra Knows Things

Kumar Sangakarra trained to be a lawyer, and judging from this quote about the Future Tours Program, he’s done well with the logic part of the examination:

“Rankings need to be fairly done. A fair FTP is the first step towards having proper rankings. Once every two years each side should play each other at least once, home or away. That’s how you get a fair deal when it comes to Test cricket.”

I agree. The rankings are silly, but more importantly, so is the ridiculous way we schedule Tests. If we’re serious about broadening cricket’s base, we need to do more than simply focus on India, Australia and England. Yes, New Zealand v. India in India isn’t too exciting, but this is how rivalries and histories build up: you have to play each other first.

Was Away On Vacation, Now I’m Back

Spent a week or two back in the homeland, and what a fortnight it was! Allegations of unplayable pitches and rampant corruption in the Delhi Cricket Association (where Virender Sehwag and G. Gambhir have launched a lonely reform effort); counter-allegations of Sri Lankans being a bunch of yella cowards who wouldn’t know a rising ball if it hit them right in the helmet’s grill (though that’s an interesting question — where’s the line between unplayable and a good pace-friendly pitch?); a Pakistani collapse and another deliciously bitter series of recriminations (It’s Akmal’s fault! No, Kamran, not Umar — we haven’t yet decided to bring him down and destroy him like the rest of ’em!).

Ah, just another day in South Asia. Good to be back.

Daniel Vettori Should Switch To A Different Team

Was just watching the Sri Lanka-New Zealand series (because someone should). My heart feels for Daniel Vettori, who may not be as brilliant as Shane Warne or Muralitharan, but deserves at least a better team to captain than the lot he currently has.

Take a look at the series stats: Vettori took the second highest number of wickets (after Murali and before latest spin sensation Herath), and he scored the fourth most runs (the only Kiwi in the top 5).

In fact, watching him score 140 runs in the 2nd innings put me in mind of his counterpart, Kumar Sangakarra, who valiantly tried to stave off defeat against the Australia in 2007 with a brilliant 192, most of them made with tail-enders. You had the sense that this man was bigger than all of his colleagues put together.

(Interestingly, the Australians won that game with the same margin as the Sri Lankans did in this one.)

At that point, Sri Lanka was at the start of its transition, with a weak batting line-up and a retiring bowling one. Now, they’re the second in the world. The hope is that Vettori, the suffering martyr of New Zealand cricket, will be able to cobble together Taylor, Oram and Guptill into a competitive team at some point, but I’m not holding my breath.

Which Players Will Do Well In South African IPL?

Left-arm Chinaman has a theory about the South African IPL edition:

If you are thinking about budgeting for the traditional power houses – Jayasuriya, Sehwag, Yuvraj and the like you might want to think again. While these players were massive hits in India in 2008, their records in SA are paltry when compared to their careers. Most sub continental batsmen struggle in SA so you will need to be wise in who you go for. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any good Asian players to pick from.

The Australians, South Africans and Kiwis will probably be stars at this year’s IPL because they are used to the conditions and play most of their cricket on similar wickets. All 3 teams are coming off good 2020 runs in the lead up as well.

I don’t agree: first, South African pitches have become much more “Asian” recently, as India’s tour of South Africa revealed. Second, a number of Indians played and won the Twenty20 world tournament when it was held in South Africa (as I recall, it was that victory that put the game on the map in India in the first place). Third, a number of teams have already arrived in South Africa, where they have been training. Enough time to adapt, no?

Was Australia Right Not to Tour Pakistan?

A few Australians are doing the I-told-you-so routine about their team’s decision not to tour Pakistan last year. Miss Field is having none of it:

Let’s stop thinking about ourselves for a second and look at this from a different angle…The Sri Lankans were brave to play in Pakistan. Sure, you could call them foolish, but that doesn’t mean they deserved this attack. On the flip side, I doubt they have the same ‘get-out-of-jail’ options available as countries like Australia and England.

Exactly. First, stop saying you made the right decision because it’s hugely insensitive at this point. Continue reading

Attacks on Cricketers, Attacks on Civilians

Alex Massie at the Spectator has written a post roughly similar to my last one, but it’s much better. Take a look at it when you can.

Massie amplifies a crucial point that I was trying to make. When I wrote, “What do you do with people who kill cricketers,” I didn’t mean to sound obtuse or silly. Obviously, civilians have been killed before, and by doing so, terrorists proved just how heartless they can be. Cricketers aren’t more exalted than the average civilian; an innocent’s death is an innocent’s death. Continue reading

Video Footage of Attack on Sri Lankan Cricket Team

YouTube has some raw footage of the attacks. There isn’t much, but you can see some CCTV stuff, as well as the now-required red circles around gunmen. 

Samaraweera, Centurion, Takes Shrapnel in Chest

Cricinfo reports that Thilan Samaraweera, who scored a century the day before during the 2nd Test, was among the most seriously injured:

Our sources tell us Samaraweera and Paravitarana were the ones most seriously injured and have been taken to hospital. they had shrapnel wounds in the chest and hamstring which have been dressed and they are doing fine.

For a video clip of a previous century from Samaraweera against India, click here.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the Indian team took to the field wearing black arm bands. Remember that the Sri Lankan team had stepped in to replace the Indians, which had pulled out after the Mumbai terrorist attacks. It’s clear now, as one Twitter commenter put it, that Pakistani cricket is over for the forseeable future.