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 7 of Kumar Sangakkara’s hour-long speech. It is accompanied by its transcript.
Transcript of Kumar Sangakkara’s speech
A Sri Lankan Cricket Team Powered by Talent
But as a Sri Lankan I hope we have the strength to find the answers ourselves.
While the team structure and culture itself was slowly evolving, our on-field success was primarily driven by the sheer talent and spirit of the uniquely talented players unearthed in recent times, players like Murali, Sanath, Aravinda, Mahela and Lasith Malinga.
Although our school cricket structure is extremely strong, our club structure remains archaic. With players diluted among 20 clubs it does not enable the national coaching staff to easily identify and funnel talented players through for further development. The lack of competitiveness of the club tournament does not lend itself to producing hardened first-class professionals.
Various attempts to change this structure to condense and improve have been resisted by the administration and the clubs concerned. The main reason for this being that any elected cricket board that offended these clubs runs the risk of losing their votes come election time. At the same time, the instability of our administration is a huge stumbling block to the rapid face change that we need. Indeed, it is amazing that that despite this system we are able to produce so many world-class cricketers.
The Challenge Ahead for Sri Lankan Cricket
Nevertheless, despite abundant natural talent, we need to change our cricketing structure, we need to be more Sri Lankan rather than selfish, we need to condense our cricketing structure and ensure the that the best players are playing against each other at all times. We need to do this with an open mind, allowing both innovative thinking and free expression. In some respects we are doing that already, especially our coaching department is actively searching for unorthodox talent.
We have recognised and learned that our cricket is stronger when it is free-spirited, and we, therefore, encourage players to express themselves and be open to innovation.
There was a recent case where the national coaches were tipped off. It was a case of a 6-foot tall volleyball player. He apparently when viewed by the district coach of the region ambled up to the wicket in four steps jumped four to five feet high in the air in a smash like leap and delivered the ball while in mid-air. His feet are within the two bowling creases, popping in the bowling crease, but after his delivery he lands quite away down the wicket.
Now the district coach found this very very interesting and unique. So he thought so well let’s have a trial. We’ll take the video camera along and get this volleyball player who had never bowled before for any lengthy period, to bowl for half-an-hour in the district nets. He does quite a good job, half-an-hour of jumping high and delivering a cricket ball, quite well with good direction. And the video sample he sent back to our cricket board.
The national coaches there also find it interesting … Let’s call him to Colombo for a trial. Four days later they make a call, and the volleyball player answers the phone call from a hospital bed. And when invited he said: “I am sorry. I can’t move. I have never bowled for 30 minutes, I strained my back.” So, the search for gold in that particular instance did not come to fruition.
There was another case where there was a letter postmarked from a distant village, where the writer claimed to be the fastest undiscovered bowler in Sri Lanka. Upon further inquiry, it was found that the letter was written by a teenage Buddhist monk who proceeded to give a bowling demonstration dressed in his flowing saffron robe. In Sri Lanka, cricket tempts even the most chaste and holy.
If we are able to seize the moment then the future of Sri Lanka’s cricket remains very bright. I pray we do because cricket has such an important role to play in our island’s future. Cricket played a crucial role during the dark days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, a period of enormous suffering for all communities, but the conduct and performance of the team will have even greater importance as we enter a crucial period of reconciliation and recovery, an exciting period where all Sri Lankans aspire to peace and unity. It is also an exciting period for cricket where the re-integration of isolated communities in the north and east open up new talent pools.
Cricket’s importance heightened in Sri Lanka’s New Era
The spirit of cricket can and should remain and guiding force for good within our society, providing entertainment and fun, but also a shining example to all of how we should approach our lives.
The war is now over. Sri Lanka looks towards a new future of peace and prosperity. I am eternally grateful for this. It means that my children will grow up without war and violence being a daily part of their lives. They will learn of its horrors not first-hand, but perhaps in history class or through conversations for it is important that they understand and appreciate the great and terrible price our country and our people paid for the freedom and security they now enjoy.
In our cricket, we display a unique spirit, a spirit enriched by lessons learned from a history spanning over two-and-a-half millennia. In our cricket, you see the character of our people, our history, culture, tradition, our laughter, our joy, our tears, our regrets, and our hopes. It is rich in emotion and talent.
My responsibility as a Sri Lankan cricketer is to further enrich this beautiful sport, to add to it and enhance it and to leave a richer legacy for the cricketers to follow.
I will do that keeping paramount in my mind my Sri Lankan identity. Play the game hard and fair and be a voice with which Sri Lanka can speak proudly to the world. My loyalty will be to the ordinary Sri Lankan fan, their 20 million hearts beating collectively as one to our island rhythm, filled with an undying and ever-loyal love for this our game.
Fans of different races, castes, ethnicities and religions who together celebrate their diversity by uniting for cricket our common national cause. Those fans are my foundation. They are my family. I will play my cricket for them. Their spirit is the true spirit of cricket. With me are all my people.
I, am Tamil, I am Sinhalese, I am Muslim and Burgher. I am a Buddhist, I am a Hindu, a follower of Islam and Christianity. But, above all, today and always, I will be proudly Sri Lankan.
← Previous: Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture (Part 6 of 7)
- Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 1 of 7) (tvaraj.com)
- Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 2 of 7) (tvaraj.com)
- Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 3 of 7) (tvaraj.com)
- Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 4 of 7) (tvaraj.com)
- Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 5 of 7) (tvaraj.com)
- Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 6 of 7) (tvaraj.com)
- Uniqueness of Sangakkara’s MCC speech (ceylontoday.lk)
- SLC Officials (srilankacricket.lk)
- Victorious Sri Lankan cricket team returns home after achieving the biggest win after 18 years (np.gov.lk)