Cricket is about partnerships. It takes two to tango. Bowlers hunt in pairs. And so do batsmen. Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge were denting terrible blows on the confidence of bowlers in the 80s. They always hunted in pairs. They are still remembered for their partnerships more than their individual brilliance. Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, with two world cups, were in a way, the modern day versions of Haynes-Greenidge. Hayden also partnered Justin Langer in Tests and the duo is one of the best pairs in the history of test cricket. Aravinda De Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga, together changed the face of Sri Lankan cricket. And then, there were Indians. Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly amassed century partnerships with ease. So too did everyone’s favorite pair of Sachin and Virender Sehwag. Every cricket lover knows what Dravid and Sachin did together in Tests. Still, Kumar Sangakkara – Mahela Jayawardene is a special story.
When I watched the final moments of the Quarter final today, I knew I was emotional. I felt the same when Sachin retired. The very realization that I’d see a Sri Lankan team step out on the cricket field without these two great men, was hard to accept. I choked a little. Memories flashed by. Of those gritty knocks in Tests. Of those numerous match winning innings for Sri Lanka. Of that marathon 624 run partnership against South Africa. Of Sanga’s cheeky little chatters behind the stumps. Of Mahela’s 2011 world cup final ton. Of their presence in the IPL. Of their celebrations after leading Sri Lanka to the WT20 triumph in 2014. Of Mahela’s presence in the Kochi Tuskers IPL team.Of Sanga’s four back to back tons in this world cup. And a lot more. Their personalities defined their batting. The gentle, soft spoken gentleman Mahela, played his strokes with such elegance. When he bats, it is as if he never wanted to hurt a cricket ball. He had the gift of timing and nobody played the ball as late as he did. When he batted, the world seemed a peaceful haven. Sanga, a qualified lawyer, was more prolific. He was orthodox, yet versatile. His MCC lecture on the impact of cricket on the war-torn nation, was moving. He was tough, yet played the game with so much dignity. Much like Rahul Dravid.
When legends retire, it isn’t about the number of years they played nor the mountain of runs they scored. The numbers would speak for themselves. But It’s about leaving behind a legacy. It’s about being an inspiration to an entire generation of cricketers. It’s about garnering the respect of opponents, with whom they competed fiercely. Its about the love and admiration from the across the globe. It’s about giving back to the beautiful game, that established them. And I think, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene can be extremely proud of what they’ve done. Thank you Sanga. Thank you Mahela. Cricket bids an emotional farewell.