The media lost no time to praise Kumar Sangakkara’s Collin Cowdrey Lecture at Lords hoping the government of Sri Lanka to react against Sangakkara so that they could make an issue of it to draw the anger of the people towards the government and bring another wave of disapproval of the government by the International Community. But it ended in no-event disappointing miserably the anti government media, and others who were hoping to profit from the situation.
Kumara Sangakkara delivered a commendable lecture in exemplary lucidity and a display of un-affected sincerity. He was able to keep the listener enraptured without a moment of distraction keeping strictly within the topic he chose, the Spirit of Sri Lankan Cricket. He steered well away from politics keeping close to his subject mentioning appropriately the people who mattered in Sri Lankan Cricket. His anecdotes and humour went completely with the theme of his speech.
One who had read the media and not listened to Sangakkara’s speech would think that Kumar Sangakkara had made his lecture an occasion to criticise the Government of Sri Lanka. If any one who listened to Kumar Sangakkara’s cleverly worded speech thinks it contained any political innuendos, then one would have to be a listener biased against the government of Sri Lanka desiring to hear criticism of the Government.
On the contrary to that expectation, Sangakkara kept himself wisely and cleverly away from politics in keeping every important issue he touched in the course of his lecture within the context of the subject the “spirit of Sri Lankan Cricket”
He drew the attention of the raptly attentive audience from the beginning of his lecture with light humour , and recounting the history of Sri Lankan Cricket when it was introduced to Sri Lanka by the British Missionaries, and then how from its elitist beginning it became a popular national game played by all. He did not fail to give credit to his “rotund” senior who brought the game out of Colombo into a popular base outside.
He mentioned the Honourable late Mr.Gamini Dissanyake, for his efforts to get the ICC grant Sri Lanka official Test status, for his preparing the Asgiriya cricket pitch to a world standard. Thereafter, Cricket become a popular pastime of a nation, with the one-day matches.
There were many awaiting to make Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdre Lecture a means to “slam” (a popular media word in Sri Lanka) the government. But they miserably failed as Sangakkara neither praised the Government or lashed out at it but made a lecture on Sri Lankan Cricked which even the late Cowdrey would have been proud of.
He recounted his frightful experience of the Lahore attack in detail with “ dark humour “ which drew the laughter of the audience.
He touched on the terrible news he had of the tsunami, and how for a moment when they did not know what to do the inspiration came from Muralitharan, « While we were thinking as to how we could help, Murali was quick to provide the inspiration. Murali is a guy who has been pulled from all sides during his career, but he always stood only alongside his team-mates and countrymen. Without any hesitation »,
In the whole of Sangakkara’s speech he did not use any moment to be boastful of his achievements and seek credit for himself but he gave readily with great generosity praise to others, standing modestly in the shade of their appreciable qualities. He spoke of how a great tragedy in Sri Lanka brought the sworn enemies together. “We visited shelter camps run by the Army and the LTTE and even some administered in partnership between them. Two bitter warring factions brought together to help people in a time of need.”
About the criticism of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, there is nothing secret about it every one in Sri Lanka is aware of the scandals surrounding it , and if Sangakkara had left it out, the topic he selected to speak, the Spirit of Sri Lanka Cricket would have been incomplete .
Sangakkara spoke about it without rancour , just made the audience understand how any “administration” could affect those who are really concerned, in this case the Sri Lankan Cricketers who play the game they love, which has become the passion of a Nation. There are scandals every where about the administration of sports. In France there are no end of it with the football clubs, so are they in UK and Italy.
Most important passage of his Cowdrey Lecture was about the terrorism in Sri Lanka. Speaking to an audience of important personalities in London the den of the terrorist “rump” who had been carrying the terrorist flag even at the Lords stadium (7 July,2009) to protest against the Sri Lankan cricket team, Sangakkara’s lecture would have been a shockwave.
The UK Channel 4 would have also had an unexpected shock, as its attempt to discredit Sri Lanka with their doctored documentary ‘The Sri Lanka Killing Fields.” may have been a washout among the London viewers after the Sangakkara’s portrayal of terrorism .
But Sangakkara spoke neither of the nefarious scheming of the ruthless terrorists, and the activities of the terrorist “rump” or the anti –Sri Lanka movements to bring dishonour and discredit to Sri Lanka. He spoke of terrorism as he saw it, and as it affected Sri Lankan Cricket and the suffering caused to the people.
He spoke of the horrors of the 1983 race riots and how the Sinhala people sheltered their Tamil friends and Tamil neighbours, so that no harm would come to them from rioting goons.
He did not leave the period of terror of the JVP and related how a wonderful man like D.H.de Silva was miraculously saved when the gun held to his head by a JVP terrorist jammed.
He gave a lesson to the Tamil diaspora in explaining what it is for him to be a Sri Lankan. He put it so well as nobody has done so far, except perhaps the late Mr. Laksman Kadirgamar. What he said in his own words is, “….With me are all my people. I am Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim and Burgher. I am a Buddhist, a Hindu, a follower of Islam and Christianity. I am today, and always, proudly Sri Lankan”.
He cleverly took away the limelight from him to focus it on the Sri Lanka Soldiers, when he so movingly recounted his meeting with a Soldier at a check point.
“A week after our arrival in Colombo from Pakistan I was driving about town and was stopped at a checkpoint. A soldier politely inquired as to my health after the attack. I said I was fine and added that what they as soldiers experience every day we only experienced for a few minutes…….. That soldier looked me in the eye and replied: “It is OK if I die because it is my job and I am ready for it. But you are a hero and if you were to die it would be a great loss for our country.”
Listening to that as he put it, you could not have helped feeling tears welling into your eyes for the heroism of our Soldiers who are ever prepared to give their lives selflessly, for the cause of their beloved land.
Thank you Kumar Sangakkara.