Kumar Sangakkara © AFP
Kumar Sangakkara has two more Tests before he retires © Getty Images

Kumar Sangakkara has just one more series left before his retirement from international cricket. The value he added to cricket must not only be gauged by the 28,000-odd runs he scored across all formats but by the impact he has had on a generation of Sri Lankans through his leadership and lectures. Karthik Parimal writes about one such instance.

Kumar Sangakkara strode in for Sri Lanka at the turn of the millennium when the island nation was experiencing a hiccup in its largely successful ascent. For fifteen years Sangakkara enthralled connoisseurs and laymen of the sport alike to an extent that Mark Twain would have forgiven the excessive usage of adjectives to describe his prowess. The value he added to cricket must not only be gauged by the 28,000-odd runs he scored across all formats but by the impact he has had on a generation of Sri Lankans through his leadership and lectures. The MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) Spirit of Cricket speech provides one such instance. READ: Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene: Cricket’s most iconic bromance

It is rare that a sportsman exhibits the same flair in his words as his on-field artistry. Despite the presence of a plethora of players in the confines of a commentary box, seldom do you come across one who is able to stitch phrases that paint a vivid picture of the nuances a sport contains to an average viewer. There is a new breed of cricketers-turned-commentators — notably Rahul Dravid and Kevin Pietersen — who captivate with a microphone like they did with a willow during their heydays. By what we have seen thus far, Sangakkara could possibly fit into that bracket. READ: Time to acknowledge Sangakkara’s greatness

Sangakkara has two more Tests before he retires his wand back in its shiny sleeve, but as is always the case with a great in any field calling it a day, the question inadvertently pops up: What next? With his striking experience, Sangakkara might be asked to don the mantle of a coach or chair an important administrative position, and although this former Sri Lankan captain will appreciate the offer, he’s wise enough to understand the fact that excellent players don’t necessarily make good coaches. “[I will] make a bad coach. I don’t know if I will have the patience [required for coaching],” he said as much when asked if he would like to be at the helm of the Sri Lankan team after retirement. READ: Kumar Sangakkara: The legend bats on

Commentary, however, could be an obvious choice. It is not widely known that during the first edition of the now defunct Champions League T20 (CLT20), Sangakkara was the lone Sri Lankan representative in the commentary box for a couple of days. Despite being an active player at the time, he sounded neutral, showing no prejudice towards some of his Sri Lankan teammates playing in the tournament. This may not appear significant, but the challenge to stay disinclined at such a juncture is often underestimated. READ: Kumar Sangakkara: Greatest Test batsman of the 21st century

More recently, during the eighth season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Sangakkara rendered his services as a pundit for Sky Sports while in England to represent Surrey in the County Championship. His analysis — especially the episode featuring ‘Master Class On Spin’ — drew plaudits and unearthed his versatility in a new avatar. The show was not aired in India, but thanks to the reach of today’s social media, word quickly spread of Sangakkara’s adroitness as an analyst. His take on certain aspects made for a compelling view, and he was drafted in through a video call by the Indian broadcasters during a technological experiment conducted during the course of the tournament.

In a question-and-answer session with Sri Lankan cricket fans in the November of 2013, published by The Sunday Times Sri Lanka, Sangakkara said he occasionally thought of taking up commentary but was apprehensive about committing professionally. The stint with Sky Sports will perhaps instigate a rethink, for there is no doubt Sangakkara is a natural in this genre. Uncritical, impartial and relevant, his would be a required infusion in the often criticised department of our sport.

The criticism of punditry comes with a reason. Most former cricketers hardly scratch beneath the surface when talking of a game and hence garner little respect. It is a case with other sports, too. As a journalist of The Guardian noted while describing the role of players-turned-commentators in football, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the game, where you’ve played, what you might have won or how much money you earned — pundits are held in the same regard by players as female assistant referees once were at Sky.” Like a player won’t necessarily make a good coach, he will not necessarily make a good commentator either.

Few cricketers can keep up with the verbal fluency required to explain cricket’s fine distinctions, but Sangakkara’s knowledge of the game, paired with the aforementioned flair and fluency, makes him a right fit for the once coveted position.

(Karthik Parimal, a former Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kartikparimal)