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Sangakkara in Reflective Chat with Haleel Farisz

September 5, 2013

 Hafeel Farisz, in the Daily Mirror

kumar sangaKumar Sangakkara is a man of many talents, having mesmerized the world with his bat- he has proven to be one OF the greatest ambassadors of the country. Having been Sri Lanka’s most consistent batsman and recognised as the best in the world repetitively by the ICC, Kumar is not a man to mince his words.

He is known to call a spade a spade, and today the international cricketing icon and an international citizen of the country in the true sense of the word Kumar- is embroiled in controversy with the powers that be at the Sri lanka Cricket. ‘Sanga’ as he is fondly known, spoke to the Daily Mirror on aspects both related to and beyond cricket.Q: But don’t you think an attitude of putting financial reasoning above cricket is seeping to this generation of cricketers as a result of this?

Well, there are two sides to it – Cricket is not like in the olden days. It is an accepted and a very viable profession for people to get into. You sacrifice most of your education, especially in a country like Sri Lanka to try and achieve your ambition of playing for the country, and with the advent of the T20 leagues- IPL and the Caribbean league, which I went and played; I think Cricket is a very attractive profession for youngsters to get into, at this moment.

In a  country like Sri Lanka a lot of these youngsters sacrifice their
education and alternative professions to achieve their dream of playing Cricket at a Professional level. With the advent of the IPL and more leagues around the world, which have been inspired by the IP- there are more avenues for Cricketers to earn a living. And make no mistake this is how Cricketers earn a living.
It is by playing a sport be it for their country or their franchise- and
earning a sum of money for their services, this is how the players live and support their families and build security for the future of themselves.

So there is now an opportunity for cricketers to earn a very attractive
remuneration even if they don’t represent their country, when the IPL started it was where you had to represent your country to be recognised as a cricketer of worth and to realise even the potential earning of playing in the IPL.
 But it has progressed since then and cricketers from various countries who play first class Cricket or at a lower representation than that have also had the opportunity to play in these leagues and become big stars in their own right- and some of them have not even represented their country.

Such has been the case and there are  many recent examples of players for the first time who show their skills in these T20 tournaments, and they have suddenly catapulted into national recognition and finding themselves suddenly representing their country as well.
I think that this has most certainly given an opportunity for cricketers to earn a living- and earn a viable living for that matter, but if you take the larger proportion of cricketers, who are coming through the ranks a lot of them realise that Test Cricket should be their ultimate ambition.
They do understand the value and the earnings of the shorter forms of the game, but their focus is very strongly confined to wear the test cap for the country.

There has been a lot of debate on players being accused of being more focused on these shorter versions and these T 20 leagues and franchises. I don’t think that is true. It is a just reward for players who have played for years for their country.

Most players treat the IPL or other franchises as a year end or mid year bonus, having played for their countries, they can go and earn a bonus by playing in these tournaments. Also the countries themselves control the no-objection certificates so there really isn’t an issue when it comes to playing for these leagues, but with focus on test Cricket, which really is Y the ultimate form of the game.

Q: A notion among the public especially in Sri Lanka is this despise for what can be termed as the ‘commercialisation’ of players, you have been a Brand Ambassador for many brands including brands which came into a lot of flack in the recent past. How
do you go about this endorsement process?

Yes, when it comes to the commercial aspect of things- being a cricketer, how I  earn and how I feed my family is through cricket and what comes from cricket.
If I get injured I don’t have way of finding another job instantly. I don’t have a pension at the time I retire. Of course I am not saying that I earn too little, I think in a Sri Lankan sense we earn a very comfortable living and of course with the IPL coming we have probably earned financial security that we never thought we would have.

Just playing for Sri Lanka over the years will not give you that financial
security, you will have to find other jobs, other work after you finish cricket and there is no guarantee that you will become successful at any of those.

And one of the things that comes with being a better cricketer or a sportsman are endorsement opportunities and its the same not just in Sri Lanka but in large parts of the world.

In Sri Lanka of course there is a lesser degree of understanding and acceptance
of that because we are still not used to that aspect of professional sport.
However, you have to be responsible when you chose the products that one is to
endorse, we go through a very extensive checklist whenever we are approached,
when it comes for endorsing products.

We go into the products, its effect on the public, whether its of benefit not only commercially but brandwise socially. And when the boxes are ticked, then the issue of finance is discussed. If you were to be eavesdropping on a conversation of the negotiating process, the issue of finance would feature last. Everything else would be discussed first.

No matter what you do there are going to be criticisms. But the people have the
right to chose and they have to choose responsibly. I however, understand that
whatever I do, and whatever I endorse is put through this exhaustive checklist,
which allows me  to endorse something with a very clear conscience.

But I think what you have to accept is that with both- paying cricket and
endorsing products- you will have criticisms, support, encouragement and all of
that.

You will be exposed to both sides of the coin, and I think that is something
that is good. Open debate and constructive criticism must be welcome and it is
something that is common in any sphere of life.

However, in Sri Lanka this takes a slightly different turn because of the role
that cricket has played especially during the 30 years of war, and what
Cricketers come to represent for the country, so everyone has to be mindful of both of these.

But at the same time it’s very unfair to label a  Cricketer be it me or
anyone else for that matter- saying that he is money minded or that he is too commercial- because earning a living and earning a living through cricket is our job.

Q:Do you regret the aftermath of the Collin Cowdrey lecture whcih you delivered- about how it was perceived by certain parts of the administration. Do you regret it?

Yes I do, because everything that I said got lost within 15 to 20 words out of
about 5000 words that I spoke that day. If you go through my speech at length and if you read or heard what I did say, it wasn’t as bad as some people portrayed it to be.

I think it was a story about Sri Lankan Cricket and my experience playing for Sri Lanka growing up in an environment of cricket and what this sport actually represents in our country.  I also spoke of the synergy that players, administrators and the media should have between them that will carry this great game forward.

Q:But have these issues that you raised during that lecture, been addressed?  On an administrative perspective- because some of these issues dont really seem to have been
resolved?

I think that resolving problems with the administration will not be done
quickly but I think that steps are being taken to resolve these issues, however
it wont be done overnight. I hope they will be resolved as time goes by.

Q:Many people would draw a comparison with you and Mahela with an era by-gone, an era which spoke of the C.I Gunasekaras, and those of that calibre. Do you think that this era- of
producing eminent citizens be it in the spheres of administration, governance, and of course sportsmen, is actually over?

I don’t think it is an era that is by-gone, or it is at an end, I think there
are more and people who are now being inspired to take up that mantle be it in
cricket, administration or any other sphere. What we need is an environment
from a very young age – at school, at home, at universities and at work- where
opinion is valued and welcome, criticisms and arguments need to occur. An
environment in which it is expected and demanded from people to talk about
every single thing that affects them, society and the country at large. I think
that an idea that you don’t agree with is something that has to be heard. You
have to hear criticisms about yourself and your ideas without which you cant
learn. I think individuality and differences have to be respected in every
sense of the word and that is how we can be united in whatever that we want to
do. It could be working in a charity, playing a sport or any sphere of Lankan
society or the international stage- wherever- accountability, openness,
discussion and difference of opinion should be welcomed and encouraged. If we
can keep doing that into the future and if we can keep a culture within Sri
Lanka, which nurtures that – then there will be more and more people taking up
that gauntlet so that they better themselves and thereby better others.

Q:You are not only
considered as a sportsman, but by and large an ambassador for this country- an
international citizen of some sort.  I know this is a political question,
but what do you actually see as the failing of this country?

I think that is a question that has no simple or exact answer, but it is
largely to do with mindset. It is about how we view ourselves and how we view
each other and I think there will be a few generations going by from here for
us to fully reconcile and fully understand the lessons that the issues have
taught us in Sri Lanka.

At this moment we are probably still too close to the real issues that we
don’t have a detached objective view, or an unemotional rational view of what
transpired. But if we don’t change our mindsets and if we don’t learn to look
at ourselves in the manner that  is demanded of the current situation that
Sri Lanka is in and with regard to the future that we are to build, I think
that it will be very sad.

But the great thing I always see in Sri Lanka be it in any sphere, there is
this great joy for life. There is a great attitude in Sri Lanka among all its
people and this will always enable the good to shine through. Even though you
think times are not as good as it should be. I always hope in that and that is
what has withstood us as a nation throughout history and what will help us
withstand the future.

The lessons we teach our children, the way we speak to them the way we inspire
them is going to be key. From our education, from the examples in society-
we  have to ensure that these lessons are good wholesome lessons, because
when they grow up – everything I lived through and all the people of this
country lived through, have to be history that has enabled them to forge a very
successful country to the future.

Q:Moving on, is there any
chance of us seeing you donning the black court?, Do you intend on completing
your studies in law?

I have had encouragement to come back and finish it in Colombo (university),
and finishing it is very important to me. If you start something you have got
to finish it, it will give you a sense of closure. Hopefully I would be able to
do that, my father also would be very happy if I do. So that’s something that I
want to do once I hang my boots.

Video link-http://www.dailymirror.lk/video/34718-damned-if-i-do-damned-if-i-dont-sangakkara.html We as a country must learn from the   past- sanga : Regrets aftermath of Cowdrey lecture

 

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