Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Favourite Cricketer: Kumar Sangakkara by Nishant Joshi

In our continuing series "My Favourite Cricketer" we invite the best cricket writers and bloggers to explain the role one player has had on their love of the game.  This week, Nishant Joshi, the editor of the Alternative Almanack writes on Kumar Sangakkara

Sangakkara's achievements on the field are pretty spectacular. At the time of writing, he has scored 36 international centuries, played in one hundred Test matches, and has captained his side to a World Cup final.

But frankly, it's a testament to his sheer awesomeness that I would still worship at the temple of Kumar, even if he was a merely mediocre, Steve Smith-ish player.

This is because Sangakkara's suaveness is from a bygone era, where Shastri would sip cognac from sepia-toned balconies, and women would swoon at the mere sight of a sturdy forward defensive. A few decades earlier, and he would have been the Asian poster boy for Brylcreem. Every time I am privileged enough to catch a glimpse of Sangakkara's not-curly-but-just-wavy-enough-to-look-sexy hair, I am inclined to grope at the TV, in the vain hope that I might be able to run my fingers through his perfectly conditioned locks. If I ever meet him in person, so help me Sachin, I might just fake a hearty embrace, when I really just want to close my eyes and inhale a deep, lingering sniff of his hair. It probably smells of coconut and ambrosia. Maybe with a hint of lemongrass. I'll have to report back on this.

As a batsman, he exudes class. The male G-spot has been found, and it's on the middle of Sangakkara's bat. His cover drives are unmatched, and the way that he manages to get down on one knee and caress the ball through the covers, against even the fastest of bowlers, is the sexiest thing since Pam Grier in the 1970s. Watching him bat in tandem with Mahela Jayawardene, we are momentarily taken to cricket's zenith, a crossroads where art transcends sport.

Sangakkara's eloquence trumps England's legion of Eton fairies, which will come in handy in his inevitable post-cricket career as a lawyer - Sangakkara started an undergraduate law degree in 1998, which he has yet to complete. Perhaps we should give him a break though, it's not as if he's spent the last decade scratching his balls in his parents' basement, watching reruns of The Apprentice and living off microwaveable macaroni cheese.

It is this eloquence with which Sangakkara showed off to the world in July, when he was invited to deliver the prestigious Cowdrey Lecture at Lord's. (ed: watch the linked video.  It's worth it).

"My responsibility as a Sri Lankan cricketer is to further enrich this beautiful sport, to add to it and enhance it and to leave a richer legacy for other cricketers to follow. I will do that keeping paramount in my mind my Sri Lankan identity: play the game hard and fair and be a voice with which Sri Lanka can speak proudly and positively to the world. My loyalty will be to the ordinary Sri Lankan fan, their 20 million hearts beating collectively as one to our island rhythm and filled with an undying and ever-loyal love for this our game."

Sangakkara passionately related his experience as a cricketer to the development of Sri Lanka as a country. Most poignant were the chastening, cathartic moments of the 2005 tsunami, and the 2009 terror attack in Lahore, and the way he intertwined the two in the context of Sri Lanka's civil war. The man is evidently one of the most intelligent in cricket, and we can only hope that he carries his forthrightness into retirement - the game needs people who are prepared to ruffle a few feathers.

He is not without controversy, however, but for the purposes of this circlejerk, we'll gloss over that and pretend that the twice-taken toss at the 2011 World Cup Final never happened. Also, we'll try to avoid all mention of his outrageous, Gilchristian hypocrisy when it comes to the Spirit of Cricket.

Which conveniently brings me onto the next point to admire: Sangakkara's sledging is legendary. Although most of it is barely audible, unrepeatable stuff, his mental disintegration and sheer humiliation of Shaun Pollock during a 2003 World Cup knock-out game has since become a YouTube staple.  As captain of a side renowned for [search thesaurus for alternative to 'choking'], Pollock strode out to the crease with the walls closing in. 120 off 125 balls required, with five wickets down. Pollock was up shit creek, yet Sangakkara still needled him like there was no tomorrow.

Starting off in a slurred, faux-South African accent, he sledged: "Lots of pressure on the skipper here eh? The weight of all these expectations here, chaps...42 million people, all depending on Shaun."

Pollock kept quiet and ignored the taunting from behind the stumps, but one could tell there was a palpable sense of fear coursing through his veins, amplified by Sangakkara's badgering. He relished that confrontation like a lion knowing that he had his hapless prey cornered.

After his career as a batsman, I live in hope that he will become a commentator or a prominent, no-holds-barred politician. More likely, he will form a crime-fighting duo with Jayawardene, who you could totally imagine wearing a Zorro mask.

Either way, Sangakkara is sure to go down as a legend of the game.

  Nishant edits and  the Alternative Cricket AlmanackYou can purchase a copy of the 2011 Alternative Cricket Almanack from Amazon.

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  1. I picture him in a bygone era where he would be serving drinks to Englishmen.

  2. To be honest, I'm not sure what to say to this. I hope it's not a British Raj reference. Even if it is, look at what the Raj created: Bob Woolmer and Nasser Hussein, amongst plenty others.