Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin: Contrasting styles and paths

Usain Bolt is a freak of nature.

Usain Bolt is a force of nature.

The Jamaican claimed his 11th World Championship gold in four appearances in the 4 X 100m relay in his trademarked style.

Is there a greater sprinter in the history of the sport? More dominant, bigger, cleaner?

He was expected to be given a run for his money by his resurgent American rival, Justin Gatlin.

Just one-hundredth of a second separated the two in the 100 metres.

Olympic Gold Medal athelete, Justin Gatlin, at...
Olympic Gold Medal athelete, Justin Gatlin, at the 2nd Annual Children’s Marathon in Pensacola, FL. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the 200 was all Usain. It’s his favourite event and we all saw why.

The Bird’s Nest had seen the eagle land and his name was Bolt.

He said:

“People pretty much counted me out this season. They said, ‘He’s not going to make it. That’s it for him.’ I came out and proved you can never count Usain Bolt out. I’m a champion, and I’ll show up when it matters.”

It took a runaway Segway steered by an errant cameraman to trip this phenomenon.

What will it take to beat Bolt?

You can’t catch up with him, that’s for sure.

Gatlin said:

“What will it take? It will take staying in front. That’s what it’s going to take.”

And to think that this is his worst year yet.

Gatlin was hoping for redemption for his fall from grace, having been banned for doping.

It was and it wasn’t. The better man won.

It wasn’t for lack of trying.

However, the paying public or the online denizens would not have anything of it. There was no substance behind the portrayal of Gatlin as the ‘villain’ of the showpiece.

The American had paid for his folly. And he was back to prove that he could run—clean—and win.

Bolt spoke of retiring after the Rio Olympics next year.

The newly crowned IAAF chief, Sebastian Coe, was quick to lament the announcement.

He said:

“I do sort of feel that I’m in sort of 1960s, 1970s time warp. It’s the kind of conversation that was probably taking place in boxing at that time as to what happens after Muhammad Ali retires. Well, after Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler happens. After Muhammad Ali, (Thomas) Hearns happen, Sugar Ray Leonard, (Floyd) Mayweather. It happens.Yes, what we have to concede, and what I believe is that I don’t think any athlete, any sportsman or woman since Muhammad Ali has captured the public imagination and propelled their sport as quickly and as far as Usain Bolt has. The Usain Bolts of this world will not come along on a conveyor belt . We do need to make sure people understand we have extraordinary talent, which we’ve witnessed in Beijing. We shouldn’t be concerned because we have a sport that is adorned by some of the most outrageously superhuman, talented people in any sport. Our challenge is to make sure the public know there are other athletes in out sport.”

Spare a thought for Gatlin, the vilified.

His lack of contrition is held against him as against Bolt’s lack of arrogance.

Gatlin’s agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, says:

“When people say he never apologised, I say: ‘You haven’t done your homework.’ And the IAAF, who know this, have never come out and said anything, which I am very sad about. Justin has apologised. What is he supposed to do, go to every country and say sorry?”

I have always said to Usada and Wada: ‘Come and test us, day or night’. That’s all we can do, make ourselves available and, if that’s not good enough for people, that’s just the world we live in.

In the last few years Justin has focused on getting his weight right and getting his technique on where it needed to be and starting to run more efficiently. We don’t know with certainty anyone, who hasn’t tested positive, is not doing anything. The good thing about our testing is that it does catch people. Justin Gatlin did get caught doping. That is a fact. So we do catch people and I am happy about that.”

Justin is very charming, personable and bright. But at some point you have to back away. He said: ‘I can’t be beat down by this every single day. I came here to run, this is not fun for me.’ So I told him: ‘If anyone is going to continue to talk about the past, let’s not talk to them.’”

Gatlin admits he was a drug cheat but he’s also a human being:

“Obviously I am the most criticised athlete in track and field but at the end of the day I am a runner and that’s all I can be.”

Gatlin has now gone public about his multiple apologies in the past for his mistakes.

In one of his letters addressed to IAAF’s then president, Lamine Diack, and his senior vice-president, Sergey Bubka, he wrote:

“I am sincerely remorseful and it continues to be my mission to be a positive role model mentoring to athletes to avoid the dangers and public and personal humiliation of doping. And the harm it brings to the sport of athletics.”

I have cooperated fully with the United States federal investigation to clean up our sport of track and field working towards it becoming drug free.”

Bolt may be clean but he’s hardly your typical sprinter.

He’s blessed with twitch fibres much like other sprinters but he’s also a huge man. His large strides lend him an advantage that’s hard to overcome once he hits his paces.

He’s no lumbering mountain man; he’s the biggest, fastest man on the planet.

He’s a freak of nature. And it’s more than likely that it will need another anomalous human being to break his existing records.

Is that possible? Or is it possible, even feasible, that gene therapy and its mutations are the way forward in games that require superhuman efforts to be ‘Higher, Faster, Stronger’?

Go figure.

Flexibility is the key but players must be willing

Does position matter?

Coaches don’t seem to think so but players certainly do.

I know for certain—when playing my brand of gully cricket—I’d never open. Simply because I never felt comfortable facing the bowling right off, maybe because I wanted to have a dekko at the opposition first, or maybe simply there’d always be someone clamouring, “Hurry up and score some runs and get out; I want to bat too.”

That’s beside the point.

It’s psychological.

There’s a comfort factor associated with a player’s favoured position. That’s his lucky number.

Or that’s what he’s been accustomed to playing at or where for a long, long time. To move him around is a travesty of natural justice—to him.

Team Director, Ravi Shastri, the man who began at No.11 and batted his way up to No.1, does not believe that Indian batsmen can own a spot in the line-up. He feels that there’s a crying need for horses for courses. A player’s position will depend on the quality of the opposition.

He said:

“In this team, no one owns a batting position. It all depends on the situation. We will play horses for courses and see what the situation and the opposition demands. Accordingly, we will see what the best batting position in the side is for each batsman against that particular outfit and seeing the state of the series.”

Flexibility is the demanded norm. Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara responded splendidly scoring centuries at No.3 and No.1 respectively.

The ploy worked.

The original strategy, though, of having Rohit Sharma come in at No.3 has fallen flat.

Sharma oozes talent but he needs the extra protection and a long rope for him to succeed. There’s little doubt about his calibre. He needs some time to come into his own. His lazy elegance is his undoing, much like David Gower, but both batters would defiantly deny any such claims vigorously.

(The  most technically adept player—after your openers, of course—should be No.3. In this side, it appears to fall upon either Pujara, Kohli or Rahane to fill this spot. Sharma is probably best at No. 4 or 5. In my opinion, you cannot have Rohit batting at that spot when the wicket’s a belter and then push him back when seamers make the ball talk and he fails. It’s just not fair to the others in the side.)

Former India hockey coach Arjun Halappa is on the players’ side when it comes to switching them around.

Paul Van Ass’ implementation of ‘Total Hockey’ is criticised as being too ‘harsh’.

“It’s very tough. When I started playing under (Jose) Brasa, I was a right winger and I was played as a central midfielder. I got really irritated at first, but gradually when I started to understand what the team wanted, I adjusted. But everyone can’t adjust.

I think it was too harsh on the part of Paul Van Ass to make those position changes straightaway in a big tournament (Hockey World League Semifinals). It could’ve been done gradually. Europeans have their own thinking, and they think they are always doing the right thing. But when they come to India, they have to understand the culture, language and players. You can’t just walk in and get things done the way you like.”

It differs from player to player. Every player needs to feel secure that he will not lose out when he’s moved to unfamiliar territory and where he may not immediately perform as expected. They deserve to be given some time to prepare and adjust. The challenge is mental. Visualization exercises with the team psychologist are not a bad idea.

Results will come when players are happy. Unhappy players are a dampener on performance and results. Process must take precedence.

“If you’re over 30, you’re over,” says Hockey India

If you’re 30+, you’re past it, over the hill, or simply put, too old.

Ageism hit Indian hockey players in the form of an arbitrary ruling from Hockey India (HI) preventing dribblers and keepers past 30 from participating in the Hockey India League (HIL).

Adrian D’souza, Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh find themselves out in the cold without a blanket to keep them warm.

The rule is discriminatory. Foreign players have no such restrictions.

The IPL has no such problems accommodating retired cricketers and on the wrong side of 40. Look at Pravin Tambe.

You can argue that hockey is a different game where fitness is of paramount significance.

The logo of Hockey India
The logo of Hockey India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then fitness tests should be made the criteria, not a number that informs clubs what your birth year is.

English: Dhanraj Pillay, former Indian field h...
Dhanraj Pillay, former Indian field hockey player and captain, attending annual sports meet of GGSIPU in Delhi as a chief guest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dhanraj Pillay turned out for India till the age of 36.

Four Olympics, World Cups,Champions Trophy and Asian Games figure against his name. He still plays hockey at the club level for Karnataka Lions.

Does he have nothing to say?


Dhanraj Pillay, Air India coach, slammed Hockey India for its perverse logic saying:

“I request Narinder Batra to reconsider the decision. Players like Adrian D’Souza, Arjun Halappa, Prabodh Tirkey have left a deep impact on hockey and they are still as capable as they were a few years back. If foreigners who are above the age of 30 can be accommodated, I am sure Indians can as well.

These players have given invaluable services to the sport. Even today in places like Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and Chandigarh, they are a household name. I don’t understand the logic. If we can have foreign players who are much older in the auctions, then why not Indians? Someone like Adrian is still going so well, and deserves to be part of the league purely on form and merit. I request Narinder Batra (HI President) to look into the matter and treat Indians the same way.”

Finish slow and easy

When Stephen Menezes, a 43-year-old runner and employee with Airtel, Mumbai, collapsed and succumbed to a heart attack after the ‘Run, India, Run-10K challenge’ in Borivali West, the news shocked the running community.

Stephen died on a Sunday, the 19th day in July, 2015. He was survived by his wife, Evona, and three children, Laurel, Audrey and Catriel. The eldest is fifteen.

My reaction to the report in the papers the following day was on the lines, “If this could happen to a seasoned runner like Menezes, this could happen to me or anyone else for that matter. This is terrible news both for runners and his family.”

(It is never easy to be calm or unemotional about people or events in which you are emotionally vested. Silence then does its turn.)

Stephen was a runner over the past five years. He was also a swimmer.

An investigating official said:

“Menezes had a blood pressure problem for the past 10 years.”

A neighbour said:

“He had run the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, the Vasai-Virar Marathon as well as the Mayor’s Marathon. Some of these were 21km long. He used to even go swimming and jogging to stay fit. We cannot accept that he is no more.”

Sandeep Figer, a friend, said:

“Menezes was a strict disciplinarian. He was particular about his health and diet.”

Neil Bronel, another friend, blamed the organisers for the delayed response.

“I am really sorry and disappointed to say it was one of the worst running events ever. The water stations were way too far. We faced the worst of the situation when one of us collapsed and there was nothing that could be done. No ambulance or medical aid was in place, which is a basic need for every run. One of our co-runners and a good family friend is no more with us due to the delay in medical help. We had to arrange to ferry him to the hospital ourselves.”

Maitri Porecha, reporting for DNA India, wrote:

“While permissions from the roads department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the traffic police have to be obtained for a marathon, there is no rule that prescribes the local health department has to be consulted.

Experts say basic medication like Sorbitrate, a nitro-glycerine tablet that immediately expands blood vessels, should be mandatory in the first-aid kit, and it should be within easy reach of a patient during marathons.

Ambulances equipped with para-medical staff trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and equipment like Atrial Electronic Difibrillator (AED) should also be there.

In Italy, every marathon runner has to submit his/her latest electro cardiogram (ECG) report before attempting the run. In the US, event organisers have to be affiliated with the local Athletic Federation. The federation ensures certain level of quality, checks and balances.”

Venkat Raman, a senior city-based marathoner, said:

“In India, none of this is followed. Local groups should screen all runners for fitness and cardiac risk profiles before enrolling them. Organisers should keep everything ready so that there is no risk to life. Every organiser should be conscious of the fact that they are playing with the runners’ lives.”

At this year’s Mumbai marathon, almost 4000 runner needed medical attention.

English: A participant in the Mumbai marathon 2011
A participant in the Mumbai marathon 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s 10% of the total runners participating.

Most of the patients were dehydrated.

Dr. Vijay D’silva said:

“Oral dehydration, treatment for cramps, physiotherapy and nausea were the most-attended problems. Thirty runners were treated for intravenous rehydration therapy. The number of dehydrated runners has increased since last year.

Younger runners, too, faced problems this time. People are unaware of what goes on inside their body. We recommend a medical check-up and conditional training before running to all participants. A large number of people are over-confident and adventurous. They refrain from seeing a doctor before running. That is unadvisable.”

52-year-old Kirit Ganatra suffered a heart attack and after being resuscitated on the spot was rushed to Bombay Hospital.

Another runner, 27-year-old Ashish Malkar, suffered convulsions near the finish line and hit his head on the pavement. He was an epileptic.

Dr Ramakant Panda, Asian Heart Institute, said:

“If a person undertakes arduous activities like continuous running for hours, he can injure himself. Also, runners get excited as the finishing line nears and the level of excitement heightens suddenly, causing injuries.”

Inexperienced runners tend to finish races on a high note sprinting the last few hundred metres. As a runner, I would not advise this for the longer races (21K or more) especially if you are not accustomed to doing it in training.

A mild speeding up may be fine but not an outright sprint because the cardiovascular system is overloaded with the stress of the past  one-and-a-half to three hours. It is best to maintain your pace and finish calm and cool. The extra seconds you gain on your finishing time or the photo-op are surely not worth the additional risk.

More later…

Rahul Sawant’s on-field heart attack forces MCA to re-evaluate medical facilities

When a sportsman suffers a grievous, deadly injury on the field like Philip Hughes who was felled by a Sean Abbott bouncer or Raman Lamba who was struck on the skull by a powerful shot, we are always shocked and debate whether the sport can be made more safe for the players. All kinds of methods and inventions are discussed and remedies are provided. Hughes’ untimely death, unseemly as it was, has forced helmet manufacturers to provide newer versions of their products that now cover the back of the neck hopefully preventing a recurrence of such an event.

Raman Lamba
Raman Lamba (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pain in acute myocardial infarction (front)
Pain in acute myocardial infarction (front) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But when more and more players are felled by disease on the field (and myocardial infarction is simply a symptom of coronary heart and artery diseases), it is time to look at the reason behind its occurrence and question the immediate reaction that exercise itself is unsafe for individuals.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

An outsized reaction to medical tragedies on the field is unwarranted and unbecoming of informed, educated persons.

Rahul Sawant, a 34-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman with Dahisar Cricket Club suffered a heart attack on Sunday while playing in the Dr HD Kanga League.

He was rushed to Bombay hospital by his teammates which saved his life.

Speaking to DNA, his skipper Pravin Gogri said:

“He was also feeling suffocated and could not bare the pain. We gave him water, but it didn’t help. We could not find the doctors provided by the Mumbai Cricket Association. Then we rushed him to Bombay Hospital.The Kanga League (rule) book says there are doctors at various grounds, but we could not find one at Azad Maidan. God knows what would have happened had we reached (the hospital) late.”

Gogri’s teammate added:

“He doesn’t smoke or drink. He is a nice man and a good cricketer. Life is full of stress these days. Today’s youngsters lead an unhealthy life. They sleep late and have loads of stress. We have now started going back to playing Kanga League on wet wickets. This could cause injuries. The MCA should be prepared if something like this happens.

Sawant has spent Rs 40,000 already. Let’s hope he is out of danger. He is the only son of his parents. You never know what can happen. I am sure MCA can afford ambulances for emergency situations.”

The matter will be taken up by the MCA in the next managing committee meeting with a promise to provide the desired medical facilities for all players.

MCA Joint Secretary, Unmesh Khanvilkar, said:

“This is a rare case. Normally, injuries like cuts, bruises or sprains happen while playing cricket. Hence we have appointed physios and provided first aids at various points of the grounds. But this is something which is serious and we will have to look into it.

We have to come out with a solution to make facilities that could deal with something like this. Other than the physios who are already there, we will try to arrange doctors who can deal with these issues. Also, we will try to arrange ambulances at each centre including gymkhanas so they can be used during emergencies.”

Sawant, meanwhile, will undergo angioplasty to remove a couple of blockages in his heart.

English: CPR training
CPR training (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The move by the MCA is welcome. Sportsmen definitely need doctors around to tend to them should they suddenly succumb to ailments on the field. Immediate medical attention, especially in the case of heart attacks and treatment such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can make the difference between life and death.

But that is not the end of it.

Players , too , need to monitor themselves and their bodies and not overexert themselves after a tiring week at work or play.

More on that later….

The Why and Que of Kumara Sangakkara and Michael Clarke – II

If Sangakkara is the quintessential gentleman beyond the game, Michael Clarke is the bright young upstart turned elder statesman and guardian of its values.

The transformation occurred under intense public scrutiny where every move and misdemeanour was analysed and dissected.

Pup’s metamorphosis would not have been possible without the support of his partner and wife, Kyly Boldy.

Clarke’s previous choice, Lara Bingle, was an equally high profile personality.

Their three-year relationship which began in 2007 and ended in 2010 was always in the news and not for the right reasons.

It was, perhaps, no surprise that the relationship ended around the time Clarke began his ascension to the throne of Australian cricket.

The ostensible reason for the break-up was an exclusive tell-all interview that Bingle sold to a women’s magazine.

And that’s when the current Mrs. Clarke and then Kyly Boldy boldly stepped into the frame.

From ‘just friends’ to an ‘item’ within months, the former schoolmates fast forwarded to the present with Boldy proving to be an able and capable First Lady of the national obsession.

Just who is Kyly Boldy?

According to her:

“I’d hope that people would think I come across as classy and that’s just because I like to hold myself that way. I guess that’s what I like to embrace and I think that’s a really nice quality in a woman.

And I hope people see me as a fun-loving ‘girl next door’. I’m a lot more of a jokester than everyone thinks – a lot more. I’m always cracking some kind of a joke or having a laugh, and I think people will be a bit surprised to see that really down-to-earth Kyly my family get to see.”

The comparisons to Bingle were evident, at first. They are both models and media personalities in their own rights.

Boldy, however, decided to shun the limelight post her marriage to Clarke in 2012.

The wedding was low-profile.

Boldy certainly has no time or place for the WAG tag used to euphemistically describe sportsmen’s partners.

She says:

“I’m not sure who started it, but they should get a slap on the wrist. Every single wife or girlfriend I’ve met who has been a part of the cricket community has always stood on her own – they have their own jobs, they have their own careers, they all do very, very well for themselves. I wonder what the husbands could be called? I wonder if we could swap this around?”

And she certainly would not like to take any credit for her husband’s success.

“That is so funny. But, nah, I don’t take any credit for any of his success. I see Michael wake up every single day, trying to be the best cricketer he can be, to be a better captain than the day before. The dedication and the passion that he has for his job is something I’ve never seen before and something I really admire. He should get every little bit of credit.

Sure, his family life or his home life might be more suitable for him, and maybe he’s just more comfortable that he feels like he can just go to cricket and do his thing – but that’s not a question I can answer. I am just happy that he is doing so well, and I know he will continue to do well because he wants to.”

She sums up her life with Clarke in these words:

“You have to wake up every single day with your own goals and dreams in life, love, family and career. You can’t take that away from anybody and I think that’s what our family is about.”

Kyly took her job as captain Clarke’s better half seriously enough to learn the rules to the game.

“As everyone keeps reminding me, it (being cricket captain) is the second most important job in Australia so obviously being alongside Michael, that is a huge thing. I’ve matured with age, a girl that has turned into a lady, and I’m trying to do everything the best way I can by learning as I go. I’ve had to Wikipedia the rules because I wanted to go into it knowing something. It makes it so much more enjoyable when you know exactly what is going on. And then you really do start to love the game because you can appreciate what is happening.”

Perhaps, it has helped that Clarke himself was a more mature person when he started dating Kyly.

An older, wiser Clarke refused to talk about his personal life and focused media questions on his cricket.

Clarke also has nothing but praise for his wife’s workout ethic especially her diet.

“I can’t believe how disciplined she is with her diet. She’s got that self-discipline to not touch the junk food if she doesn’t want to, whereas if I see it in the cupboard it’s gone, I eat it! I can’t have two pieces of chocolate and put it away, I’ve got to eat the whole bar.”

(Funny how this jells with my personal view that if sportsmen need to watch their diets, they should date or wed models or actresses who do that all the time. Look at Shane Warne’s new, slim, look since teaming up with Elizabeth Hurley—now apart.)

A bad back and an indifferent Ashes series hastened Pup’s early retirement. It, however,  gives the couple ample privacy and time to welcome the first addition to their family with Kyly expecting soon.

While two greats exit the field, they begin anew a home life that demands much more from them than just runs, wickets, catches and wins. It is a second innings away from glory but will require guts nonetheless.

The Why and Que of Kumara Sangakkara and Michael Clarke – I

There’s always something to be said about back stories—the people, the spouses, the families behind a sportsperson’s successes.

Two stalwarts of the game—Kumara Sangakkara and Michael Clarke—retire from the game having announced their exit some time before.

Much has been written about them; tributes have been paid—ad nauseam.

But what about the women in their lives?

Yehali Sangakkara is the talk of the town ever since stunning pictures with her hubby hit the sports pages.

The dynamic and sultry beauty expressed her sentiments about her counterpart returning home.

Speaking to Sony Six, Yehali said:

“He is an extremely messy person, the messiest on earth. But he loves to cook and absolutely loves making pasta at home.We never discussed cricket at home and always made sure there was life away from the sport at home. Conversations revolved around kids and made sure there was life beyond the sport.Kumar is a very relaxed, open sort of person. He has never demanded much. (But) He will have to get used to our routine now. He will of course still play some cricket for a year or two.”

Yehali and Kumara have known each other since their school days. They dated for eight years before settling down.

The wicketkeeper-batsman says:

“In my case, it (marriage) keeps me grounded and gives me a base where I can think my life out, refocus and renew energies for the next day.”

The 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture is Yehali’s favoured Sanga moment when it comes to cricket.

Here’s a sample of her spouse’s famed words:

“Ladies and Gentleman, the history of my country extends over 2500 years.

A beautiful island situated in an advantageously strategic position in the Indian Ocean has long attracted the attentions of the world at times to both our disadvantage and at times to our advantage.

Sri Lanka is land rich in natural beauty and resources augmented 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 an inquisitive and fun-loving people, smiling defiantly in the face of hardship and raucously celebrating times of prosperity.

Living not for tomorrow, but for today and 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 our anti-Western defences and has now become the most precious heirloom of our British Colonial inheritance.

Maybe 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 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 have sugary tea while the hosts go without.”

Speaking to Wisden India, Sangakkara elaborated on his partnership with Yehali:

“I met her in Kandy, we were in two schools that had the same founder. Rev Ireland Jones founded Trinity and then Hillwood College in Kandy. I met her there when I was about 16-17 and have been with her for well over 20 years now. And it’s been the best partnership of my life, without a doubt. We have two beautiful children and she’s a very practical, very sensible lady who minces no words in telling me exactly what she thinks of my cricket or what I do or the decisions that I make. Not in any technical sense but in a sense of whether what the thought processes are that go into making these decisions. She has been one of the most important figures in keeping me grounded and ensuring that there is sanity at home. There is order when I am playing. When I am away from home, I have always travelled with them, with my wife and my children. I have been very, very blessed to have her in my life and hopefully, she will decide to stay with me for many years longer.”

Sangakkara’s wife was expecting when the Sri Lankans were attacked in Pakistan. Recalling that gruesome event, the former skipper said:

“Yes, actually my wife was a few months pregnant, quite pregnant by the time we were attacked. So actually I called her and I spoke to her and I said listen, we were driving to the ground and there has been a bit of a shooting but everyone’s fine. Don’t worry about anything. That’s all I told her, I didn’t tell her anything about who got hurt, who got hit and all of this. But unfortunately, there were news items being run saying I got hit in the head and people have died and all these things and she was panicking. I got a few calls and at the end of the day I said listen, I am talking to you, so that means I am fine! But at the same time, I can understand the stress that she was going through. It was easier for us because we knew exactly what was happening but they weren’t getting the news quickly enough or clearly enough. And it was hugely stressful not just on her but all the families and you could see when we landed that the relief they had to have us back and at home in Sri Lanka. It was quite a tough time.”

If  Kumara is the man-about-town, his other half is no less enterprising.

Yehali took over a television microphone when she ‘interviewed’ an Aussie spectator at his final Test in Colombo.

The Australian was all paeans.

He said:

“I love Kumar. He is one of the all-time greats of cricket. I am an Australian but am a huge supporter of Sri Lankan cricket.It’s a sad day to see Kumar retire but we will always remember his great innings.”

Yehali revealed:

“I think he went through the normal process – from school to NCC to ‘A’ team and then to the national team. The process worked and he became mature.We are blessed to have a very supportive family. Kumar’s parents and siblings are very supportive. We have good friends around us who keep us grounded. He always believes in doing the right thing. He says, ‘If you do the right thing, good will follow’. He has always taken responsibility on himself rather than pointing fingers at others.”

To be continued…