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Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 2 of 7)


By T.V. Antony Raj


Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011. - 2
Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011.


On July 4, 2011, at the invitation of the MCC, Kumar Sangakkara, the former Captain of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, delivered the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s  titled “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket – A Celebration of Our Uniqueness”.

This video is part 2 of Kumar Sangakkara’s hour-long speech. It is accompanied by its transcript.



Transcript of  Kumar Sangakkara’s speech


The History of Sri Lanka

It (Sri Lanka) has long attracted the attentions of the world at times to our disadvantage and at times to our prosperity.

It is beautiful and it is inhabited by a wonderfully resilient and vibrant and hospitable people whose attitude to life has been shaped by volatile politics both internal and from without.

In our history, you will find periods of glorious peace and prosperity and times of great strife, war and violence. Sri Lankans have been hardened by experience and have shown themselves to be a resilient and proud society celebrating at all times our zest for life and living.

Sri Lankans are a close knit community. The strength of the family unit reflects the spirit of our communities. We are inquisitive. We are a fun-loving people, smiling defiantly in the face of hardship and raucously celebrating times of prosperity.

We live not for tomorrow, but for today, savouring every breath of our daily existence. We are fiercely proud of our heritage and culture; the ordinary Sri Lankan standing tall and secure in that knowledge.

Over four hundred years of colonization by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British has failed to crush or temper our indomitable spirit. And yet in this context the influence upon our recent history and society by the introduced sport of cricket is surprising and noteworthy. Sri Lankans for centuries have fiercely resisted the Westernisation of our society, at times summarily dismissing western tradition and influence as evil and detrimental.

Yet cricket, somehow, managed to slip through the crack in the anti-Western defences in our society and has now become the most precious heirloom of our British Colonial inheritance. It maybe because it is a result of our simple sense of hospitality where a guest is treated to all that we have and at times even to what we don’t have.

If you a visit a rural Sri Lankan home and you are served a cup of tea you will find it to be intolerably sweet. I have at times experienced this myself and upon further inquiry have found that it is because the hosts believe that the guest is entitled to more of everything including the sugar. In homes where sugar is an ill-affordable luxury a guest will still receive sugary tea while the hosts go without.

Sri Lanka’s Cricketing Roots

Fittingly, as it happens, Colin Cowdrey and Sri Lanka’s love for cricket had similar origins: Tea. Colin’s father, Ernest, was a tea planter in India. While he was schooled in England, he played on his father’s plantation where I am told he used to practice with Indian boys several years his elder. Cricket was introduced to Ceylon by men like Ernest, English tea planters, during the Colonial period of occupation that covered a span of about 150 years from 1796.

Credit for the game’s establishment in Sri Lanka, though, also has to be given to the Anglican missionaries to whom the colonial government left the function of establishing the educational institutions.

By the latter half of the 19th century, there grew a large group of Sri Lankan families who accumulated wealth by making use of the commercial opportunities thrown open by the colonial government.

However, a majority of these families could not gain any high social recognition due to the prevalence of a rigid hierarchal caste system which labelled them until death to the caste they were born into. A possible way out to escape the caste stigma was to pledge their allegiance to the British crown and help the central seat of government.

The missionaries, assessing the situation wisely, opened superior fee levying English schools especially in Colombo for the children of the affluent from all races, castes and religions. By the dawn of the 20th Century, the introduction of cricket to this educational system was automatic as the game had already ingrained itself deeply into the English life, as Neville Cardus says “without cricket there can be no summer in that land.”

Cricket was an expensive game needing playgrounds, equipment and coaches. The British missionaries provided all such facilities to these few schools. Cricket became an instant success in this English school system.

Most Sri Lankans considered cricket beyond their reach because it was confined to the privileged schools meant for the affluent.

The missionaries in due course arranged inter colligate cricket matches backed by newspaper coverage to become a popular weekend social event to attend.

The newspapers carried all the details about the cricket matches played in the country and outside. As a result school boy cricketers became household names. The newspapers also gave prominent coverage to English county cricket and it had been often said that the Ceylonese knew more of county cricket than the English themselves.

Cricket clubs were formed around the dawn of the 20th century, designed to cater for the school leavers of these colleges. The clubs bore communal names like the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), the Tamil Union, the Burgher Recreation and the Moors Club, but if they were considered together they were all uniformly cultured with Anglicized values.

Inter-club matches were played purely for enjoyment. Club cricket also opened opportunities for the locals to mix socially with the British. So when Britain granted independence to Ceylon in 1948 it is no wonder cricket was a passion of the elitist class.

Although in the immediate post-independent period the Anglicized elite class was a small minority, they were pro-western in their political ideology and remained a powerful political lobby.

In the general elections immediately after independence, pro-elite governments were elected and the three Prime Ministers who headed the governments had played First XI cricket for premier affluent colleges and had been the members of SSC.

The period between 1960 and 1981 was one of slow progress in the game’s popularity as the power transferred from the Anglicized elite to rising Socialist and Nationalist groups. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka was made an associate member of the ICC in 1965, gaining the opportunity to play unofficial test matches with players like Michael Tissera and Anura Tennakoon impressing as genuine world-class batsmen.

Honorable Gamini Dissanayake (Source: en.wikipedia.org)
Honorable (late) Gamini Dissanayake (Source: en.wikipedia.org)


In 1981, thanks to the efforts of the late Honourable Gamini Dissanayake, the ICC granted Sri Lanka official Test status. It was obviously a pivotal time in our cricketing history. And, this was the start of a transformation of cricket from an elite sport to a game for the masses.

Race Riots and Bloody Conflict

I do not remember this momentous occasion as a child. Maybe because I was only five years old, but also because it wasn’t a topic that dominated conversation in our home. The early 1980’s was dominated by the escalation of militancy in the north into a full-scale civil war that was to mar the next 30 years.

The terrible race riots of 1983 and a bloody communist insurgency amongst the youth was to darken my memories of my childhood and the lives of all Sri Lankans. I recollect now the race riots of 1983 now with horror, but for the simple imagination of a child not yet six it was a time of extended play and fun. I do not say this lightly as about 35 of our closest friends, all Tamils, took shelter in our home. They needed sanctuary from vicious politically-motivated goon squads and my father, like many other Sri Lankans from different ethnic backgrounds, opened their houses at great personal risk.

For me, though, it was a time where I had all my friends to play with all day long. The schools were closed and we’d play sports for hour after hour in the backyard – cricket, football, rounders. It was a child’s dream come true. I remember getting annoyed when a game would be rudely interrupted by my parents and we’d all be ushered inside, hidden upstairs with our friends and ordered to be silent as the goon squads started searching homes in our neighbourhood.


Next → Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture (Part 3 of 7)

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The Archangel Gabriel

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1 is devoted to the story of Archangel Gabriel announcing the birth of John (the Baptist) to aged Zechariah and the birth of Jesus to virgin Mary.

In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel (Hebrew: גַּבְרִיאֵל, Arabic: جبريل, Jibrīl or جبرائيل Jibrāʾīl) meaning “God is my strength” is an Archangel who typically serves as a messenger to humans from God.

Archangel Gabriel
Archangel Gabriel

The first appearance of Gabriel is in chapter 9 in the Book of Daniel, delivering explanations of Daniel’s visions.

In the Gospel of Luke Gabriel foretells the births of both John the Baptist and of Jesus. Catholic traditions refer to him as Gabriel the Archangel.

Gabriel is referred to as “he” in the Bible, and in Daniel 9:21 he is explicitly called “the man Gabriel”:

  • I was still praying, when the man, Gabriel, whom I had seen in vision before, came to me in flight at the time of the evening offering. (Daniel 9:21)

Some moderns, especially New Age exponents, portray Gabriel as female or androgynous.

Androgyny is a term derived from Greek referring to the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics.

In Latter-day Saint theology, Gabriel is believed to have lived a mortal life as the prophet Noah. So, according to them Archangel Gabriel and prophet Noah are regarded as the same person; Noah being his mortal name and Gabriel being his heavenly name.

Jibrāʾīl in Islam

In Islam there are four archangels: Jibrāʾīl (Gabriel), Mika’el (Michael), Israfil (Raphael) and Malak al-Maut (The Angel of Death).

Although some islamic texts claim the Angel of Death’s real name is Izrael (Azrael), this is not confirmed in the Qur’an or hadith.

Jibrāʾīl is called the chief of the four favoured angels and the spirit of truth. He is Allah’s messenger to the prophets. At times Jibrāʾīl takes the form of a man. In Islam, he is also called the created Holy Spirit, which is not to be confused with the Holy Spirit of God in Christianity who is revered as God Himself.

Jibrāʾīl is believed by Muslims to have been the angel who revealed the Holy Qur’an to prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).

According to the Holy Qur’an, Archangel Jibrāʾīl appeared to prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) in a cave where he went to pray. Here is the story that I read long ago. If my retelling of this encounter be wrong I stand to be corrected by my muslim bretheren.

Muhammad (s.a.w.) was a young man around forty and a well to do merchant in the city of Mecca. It was his habit to leave the city and walk up to to a cave in Mount Hira, to be alone and ponder over the day’s events and about the world around him. He would spend time there fasting, praying, thinking, and trying to find answers to the meaning of life.

One day towards the end of the month of Ramadan the prophet came back home exasperated and in an agitated state.

His wife Khadija was initially startled when she heard the prophet telling her that he must have gone mad for he had been visited by an angel. The prophet told her that while he was in a trance-like state, the Archangel Jibrāʾīl appeared before him holding a cloth of green brocade with writing embroidered on it.

“Read,” said the angel.

The Prophet was stupefied. He said, “I cannot read!”

The angel squeezed him, and then released him. “Read” the angel said.

“I cannot read” Muhammad said, a little louder this time.

The angel squeezed him again, harder than before, and commanded, “Read.”

“I cannot read?” Muhammad said, even louder.

The angel persisted, and the prophet repeatedly resisted, until the angel finally overwhelmed Muhammad and commanded him:

Read with the name of your Lord Who created,
Created man from a clot.
Read, and your Lord only is the Most Beneficent,
The One Who taught to write with the pen.
The One Who taught man all what he did not know. (Qur’an 96:1-5)

The prophet recited the verses after the angel, until he knew it perfectly, word for word.

Then the frightened prophet felt he was alone. The angel and the writing had gone. But the words stayed in his memory, and there was a strange sensation of having been squeezed very hard. Trembling, he stood up, left the cave, and began to walk, shakily, down the mountain path. He was very confused. Then a voice, the same voice, called to him: “Oh Muhammad! Truly you are the messenger of God. And I am his angel, Jibrāʾīl.

Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) looked up, and saw the angel, who looked like a human, but so enormous that his two feet straddled the horizon. For a moment, the prophet was awe-struck. Then he tried to escape, but no matter which way he turned, the angel was there, filling the sky. The prophet could go neither forwards nor back until Jibrāʾīl had disappeared from the sky as suddenly as he had appeared. As it dawned the prophet made his way back to his home in Mecca.

Muslims also have a high esteem for Jibrāʾīl for a number of historical events predating his first appearance to prophet Mohamed (s.a.w.).

Muslims believe that Jibrāʾīl was the angel who informed two parents – Zakariya (Zachariah) and Maryam (Mary) of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. Also, Jibrāʾīl was one of three angels who had earlier informed Ibrāhīm (Abraham) of the birth of Isḥāq (Isaac). These events of Zakariya and Maryam can be found in Chapter 19 – surah Maryam in the Holy Qur’an.

Chapter 19 – Surah Maryam (Mary)

(Revealed at Mecca – This Chapter has 98 verses in 6 sections)

Allah – beginning with the name of – the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Section 1

1. كهيعص
[These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur’an, and none but Allah and to whomever He reveals know their precise meanings.]

2. This is the remembrance of the mercy of your Lord upon His bondman Zakaria.

3. When he softly prayed to his Lord.

4. He submitted, “O my Lord – my bones have become weak and old age shines forth from my head, and O my Lord, I have never been disappointed in my prayer to you.”

5. “And I fear my relatives after me and my wife is barren therefore bestow upon me from Yourself one who will take up my work.”

6. “He being my successor and the heir of the Descendants of Yaqub (Jacob); and my Lord, make him a cherished * one.” (* Make him a Prophet among the Descendants of Israel.)

7. “O Zakaria! We give you the glad tidings of a son whose name is Yahya (John)  before him, We have not created anyone of this name.”

8. He submitted, “My Lord – how can I have a son since my wife is barren and I have reached infirmity due to old age?”

9. He (the angel) said, “So it is; your Lord says, ‘This is easy for Me – in fact I created you before this, at a time when you did not exist.’ ”

10. He said, “My Lord, give me a sign”; He said, “Your token is that you will not speak to people for three nights, although in proper health.”

11. He therefore emerged upon his people from the mosque, and told them through gestures, “Keep proclaiming the Purity (of your Lord) morning and evening.”

12. “O Yahya – hold the Book firmly”; and We gave him Prophethood in his infancy. (Prophet Yahya was only 2 years old at that time.)

13. And compassion from Ourselves, and chastity; and he was extremely pious.

14. And was good to his parents and not forceful, nor disobedient.

15. And peace is upon him the day he was born, and the day he will taste death, and the day he will be raised alive.

Section 2

16. And remember Maryam in the Book; when she went away from her family to a place towards east.

17. So there she screened herself from them; We therefore sent Our Spirit towards her – he appeared before her in the form of a healthy man. (Angel Jibreel – peace be upon him.)

18. She said, “I seek the refuge of the Most Gracious from you – if you fear God.”

19. He said, “I am indeed one sent by your Lord; so that I may give you a chaste son.”

20. She said, “How can I bear a son? No man has ever touched me, nor am I of poor conduct!”

21. He said, “So it is; your Lord has said, ‘This is easy for Me’; and in order that We make him a sign for mankind and a Mercy from Us; and this matter has been decreed.”

22. So she conceived him, and she went away with him to a far place.

23. Then the pangs of childbirth brought her to the base of the palm-tree; she said, “Oh, if only had I died before this and had become forgotten, unremembered.”

24. (The angel) Therefore called her from below her, “Do not grieve – your Lord has made a river flow below you.”

25. “And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you – ripe fresh dates will fall upon you.” (This was a miracle – the date palm was dry and it was winter season.)

26. “Therefore eat and drink and appease your eyes; so if you meet any person then say, ‘I have pledged a fast (of silence) to the Most Gracious – I will therefore not speak to any person today.’ ”

27. So carrying him in her arms, she brought him to her people; they said, “O Maryam, you have indeed committed a great evil!”

28. “O sister of Haroon, neither was your father an evil man nor was your mother of poor conduct!”

29. Thereupon she pointed towards the child; they said, “How can we speak to an infant who is in the cradle?”

30. The child proclaimed, “I am Allah’s bondman; He has given me the Book and made me a Herald of the Hidden (a Prophet).”

31. “And He has made me blessed wherever I be; and ordained upon me prayer and charity, as long as I live.”

32. “And has made me good to my mother and not made me forceful, ill-fated.”

33. “And peace is upon me the day I was born, and on the day I shall taste death, and on the day I will be raised alive.”

34. This is Eisa (Jesus), the son of Maryam; a true statement, in which they doubt.

35. It does not befit Allah to appoint someone as His son – Purity is to Him! When He ordains a matter, He just commands it, “Be” – and it thereupon happens.

36. And said Eisa, “Indeed Allah is my Lord and your Lord – therefore worship Him; this is the Straight Path.”

37. Then groups among them differed; so ruin is for the disbelievers from the witnessing of a Great Day.

38. Much will they listen and much will they see, on the Day when they come to Us, but today the unjust are in open error.

39. And warn them of the Day of Regret when the matter will have been decided; and they are in neglect, and they do not accept faith.

40. Indeed We shall inherit the earth and all that is on it, and only towards Us will they return.

Section 3

41. And remember Ibrahim in the Book; he was very truthful, a Herald of the Hidden (a Prophet).

42. When he said to his father, * “O my father – why do you worship one which neither hears nor sees, and cannot benefit you in any way?” (* His uncle Azar.)

43. “O my father, indeed a knowledge has come to me which did not come to you – therefore follow me, I will show you the Straight Path.”

44. “O my father, do not be a bondman of the devil; indeed the devil is disobedient towards the Most Gracious.”

45. “O my father, I fear that a punishment from the Most Gracious may reach you, so you would become a companion of the devil.”

46. He said, “What! You turn away from my Gods, O Ibrahim? If you do not desist, I will certainly stone you, and keep no relation with me for a long while.”

47. So when he had separated from them and what they worshipped other than Allah, We bestowed him Ishaq and Yaqub; and We made each of them a
Herald of the Hidden.

50. And We gave them Our mercy, and assigned for them a true and high repute.

Section 4

51. And remember Moosa in the Book; he was indeed a chosen one, and he was a Noble Messenger, a Herald of the Hidden.

52. We called him from the right side of the mountain Tur, and brought him close to reveal Our secret.

53. And with Our mercy We bestowed upon him his brother Haroon, a Prophet.

54. And remember Ismail in the Book; he was indeed true to his promise and was a Noble Messenger, a Prophet.

55. He used to command his people to offer prayer and give charity, and was liked by his Lord.

56. And remember Idrees in the Book; he was indeed very truthful, a Prophet.

57. And We lifted him to a high position. (Living with soul & body in heaven, after his death.)

58. It is these upon whom Allah has bestowed favour among the Prophets, from the descendants of Adam; and from those whom We boarded along with Nooh; and from the descendants of Ibrahim and Israel; and from those whom We guided and chose; when the verses of the Most Gracious were recited to them, they fell down, prostrating and weeping. (* Command of Prostration # 5.)

59. And after them came the unworthy successors who squandered prayer and pursued their own desires, so they will soon encounter the forest of Gai in hell.

60. Except those who repented and accepted faith and did good deeds – so these will enter heaven, and they will not be deprived * in the least. (* of their due reward.)

61. Everlasting Gardens of Eden, which the Most Gracious has proomised to His bondmen in the unseen; indeed His promise will come.

62. They will not hear any lewd talk in it, but only Peace; and in it for them is sustenance, every morning and evening.

63. It is the Paradise that We will bequeath to those among Our bondmen who remain pious.

64. (Said Angel Jibreel to Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon them) “And we angels do not come down except by the command of your Lord; to Him only belongs all that is ahead of us and all that is behind us and all that is between them; and your Lord is not forgetful.”

65. Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them – therefore worship Him and be firm in His worship; do you know any other of the same name as His?

Section 5

66. And says man, “When I am dead, will I soon be brought forth alive?”

67. Does not man remember that We created him before this, and he was non existent?

68. So by your Lord, We shall assemble them and the devils – all of them – and bring them around hell, fallen on their knees.

69. We shall then pick out from every group the one who was most arrogant towards the Most Gracious.

70. Moreover, We well know those who most deserve to be burned in hell.

71. And there is none among you who shall not pass over hell; this is an obligatory affair, binding upon your Lord. (Allah will make everyone pass over the back of hell – on a thin bridge.)

72. We shall then rescue the pious – and leave the unjust in it, fallen on their knees.

73. And when Our clear verses are recited to them, the disbelievers say to the Muslims, “Which group has a better home, and a better alliance?”

74. And many a generation We did destroy before them, who exceeded them in wealth and pomp!

75. Proclaim, “For one in error – so the Most Gracious may give him respite; to the extent that when they see the thing which they are promised – either the punishment or the Last Day; so then they will come to know for whom is the evil rank and whose army is weak.”

76. And Allah will increase the guidance for those who have received guidance; and good deeds that remain have the best reward before your Lord, and the best outcome.

77. So have you seen him who denied Our signs and says, “I shall certainly be given wealth and children?”

78. Has he seen the Hidden, or has he made a pact with the Most Gracious?

79. Never; We shall now record what he says and give him a prolonged punishment.

80. And it is We only Who shall inherit what he says (belongs to him), and he will come to Us, alone.

81. And they have chosen Gods besides Allah, so that they may provide them strength!

82. Never; soon they will deny ever worshipping them, and will turn into their pponents.

Section 6

83. Did you not see that We sent devils upon the disbelievers, so they excite them abundantly?

84. So do not be impatient for them (O dear Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him); We are only completing their number. * (* The number of days left for them or their evil deeds.)

85. On the day when We shall assemble the righteous towards the Most Gracious, as guests.

86. And drive the guilty towards hell, thirsty.

87. People do not own the right to intercede, except those * who have made a covenant with the Most Gracious. (* The Holy Prophets and virtuous people will be given the permission to intercede. Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him – will be the first to intercede.)

88. And the disbelievers said, “The Most Gracious has chosen an offspring.”

89. You have indeed brought an extremely grave speech!

90. The heavens are close to being torn apart by it, and the earth being split asunder, and the mountains succumbing and falling down.

91. Due to their ascribing of an offspring to the Most Gracious.

92. And it does not befit the Most Gracious to choose an offspring!

93. All those who are in the heavens and the earth will come to the Most Gracious as His bondmen.

94. He knows their number and has counted each one of them.

95. And each one of them will come before Him on the Day of Resurrection, alone.

96. Indeed those who believed and did good deeds – the Most Gracious will appoint love for them. (In the hearts of other believers.)

97. We have therefore made this Qur’an easy upon your tongue, (O dear Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him) for you to announce glad tidings with it to those who fear, and warn those who are quarrelsome.

98. And many a generation We did destroy before them; do you see any one of them or hear their faintest sound?