Kumar Sangakkara (centre) chaired by Seekuge Prasanna (left) and Thisara Perera after Sri Lanka’s win over India in ICC World T20 2014 final © Getty Images
Kumar Sangakkara’s emotional press conference was one of the many moments on Sunday that moved touched people and reflected his real pride of being a Sri Lankan player. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about the press interaction.
“Kumar Sangakkara is a class-player,” said a Sri Lankan fan after the southpaw led Sri Lanka to the title in the ICC World T20 2014 final. “No,” retorted the fan’s wife, “More importantly he is a classy individual,” she said. It has been a long wait for the Sri Lankan fans since 1996. More so, it was painful over the last few years, considering the fact that they lost in four World Cup finals. For this Sri Lankan couple, settled in Bangladesh, it was a dream come true, watching their country lift the World Cup miles away from home. And, needless to say, Sangakkara was the hero!
You could have forgiven Sangakkara for being emotional even during the game, but there was a job at hand. When he walked out to bat, it was his mate Mahela Jayawardene in the centre. “I am a great believer that if you get emotional, you’ve got to use it to your advantage. If not, then forget about being emotional,” said Sangakkara. All those feelings of fulfillment, joy and very sense of being the World Champions is indescribable, even someone like a Sangakkara couldn’t quite put it in words.
As Kumar Sangakkara walked into the media briefing room for the press conference, all the journalists stood up to applaud him. Yes, he is still going to play Test and One-Day International (ODI) cricket, but every individual in that room knew what it meant for him. You could see that Sangakkara, a man who usually maintains his poise, was overpowered by emotions. He graciously waved to all the reporters and took his seat for the line of questions.
Watching Sangakkara answer those questions, one would know it was a special moment. He had to wait for years to bring world glory to his country. For a couple of questions, he stopped, thought a bit and then eloquently dealt with them. Even in defeat, during the 2011 World Cup final, Sangakkara was gracious and delivered a lovely speech. This time, you had to be in the media briefing room to know how he reacted on the other side of the fence.
Here was a man, a modern great, with over 10,000 runs in Tests and ODIs. A man who is respected by world cricket and loved by fans. Yet, there was that particular tone of humility. The Sri Lankan team wanted it to be his moment; the whole Island Nation wanted it for “Mahela and Sanga.” But, for this gentleman, it was about the nation. He unfailingly mentioned the 20 million people back home, the fans who had endured heartbreak over the years. “It is not just about me or Mahela or a single person. It is about the entire squad, everyone who stands with you and behind you,” he said. But the most telling statement came when he said, “I don’t think the game owes us anything. I don’t think the game owes any player anything. Our job is to play the best we can and walk away hopefully, having made a positive impact on the game. The game gives us the opportunities, for us to try and take them. Today was another opportunity.” That was the mark of his humility and pride at the same time, of being a Sri Lankan player.
As Sangakkara wrapped up the press conference, he was waiting to head back and join his teammates. However, he still obliged a few waiting to get their mementos signed. There was a rush, but he said, “One second, one at a time.” And, yes no one was left disappointed. In victory or in defeat, Sangakkara has shown what he is. What a man, what a player!
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)