Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Break Up of a Love-Hate Relationship

Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, P. Sara Oval

Cognitive Dissonance; 
the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. Simply, it is how you could absolutely love a person to bits, and yet have qualities that you despise to the core. Benito Mussolini banned Jazz music in Italy during its Axis years. Jazz music was said to be vile due to it's African origin, Jewish popularity and liberative and radical themes. Yet, Mussolini was a massive Jazz fan. His fourth son Romano, went on to become one of the most famous Jazz pianists in the world. Jazz caused Mussolini to be inconsistent, and hypocritical. It is said that only Humans are capable of such complex contemplation.

It is the morning of a week day in 2003. The Sri Lankan cricket team has returned from South Africa after a rather disappointing World Cup performance, losing to Kenya, and being pummeled by both India and Australia in the Super Six stages, and losing the semi final against Australia after being in an extremely commanding position. Australia made 212 in their 50 overs in that game. 91 of them coming off Andrew Symonds' bat, who was given a life when he hadn't even crossed double figures by Kumar Sangakkara, who missed the easiest stumping chance in the world. To make it worse up on him self, he then ran out Aravinda De Silva in what was the Sri Lankan World Cup hero from 1996's last ODI game ever. The memory still lingers in the mind of the avid cricket fan, but on that morning in 2003, it was as fresh as the dew on Torrington Square, which we drive past on my way to school. The Sri Lankan cricket team is having a jog. A van carrying school boys go past them. "GANDASTHAAARAAAAAAA", a boy shouts. It roughly translates to Stinker, and it echoes through the team, and all those around. It is aimed at Kumar Sangakkara. Kumar Sangakkara is a villain.

Four years later, I wake up at 6am to watch the Sri Lanka vs Australia 2nd Test at Hobart. Overnight, Sri Lanka had ended at 247/3, Sangakkara 103* and Jayasuriya 33*. They needed 260 runs to win their first test in Australian soil, and with 7 wickets in hand, Sri Lankan fans had grown hopeful. I switch on the TV. I check the wickets column before I check the score. 8 down. Game over. I check the score. 302/8. Sangakkara on 148 not out. He dances down the track to Stuart Clark, and whacks him over cover. He does it again. And again. At least once every over. He makes 192, the highest score by a Sri Lankan batsman in Australia. Rudi Koertzen gives him out caught behind, off his helmet. Sangakkara is livid as he knows he had a chance to win the game for Sri Lanka. But it is not to be. Sri Lanka lose by 96 runs. Kumar Sangakkara has perhaps played the most memorable innings by a Sri Lankan, even more so than Sanath's 340 or Mahela's 374. Kumar Sangakkara is a great batsman. He may not be a villain now, but he is not yet a hero.

In December 2009, my best friend and my self are studying for Advanced Level exams. We have 8 months to go, and we don't know jacksh*t. Yet, with a pocket radio, we are listening to a Sri Lanka vs India game at Rajkot. India have scored 414, the highest total against Sri Lanka in an ODI. Upul Tharanga and TM Dilshan make 180 in 22 overs. Tharanga gets out. Sangakkara strides in. No one expects him to score quicker than Tharanga, let alone Dilshan. No one expects him to smother the bowlers over the ropes as he wishes. But he does. He plays a blitzkrieg innings of 91 off 43 balls. He gets out, and a procession follows and Sri Lanka end up losing by just 3 runs. But Kumar Sangakkara has played the most defining innings of his career. He has evolved in to the complete modern day batsman. Yet, he is still not a hero.

In 2014 April, at a friend's house, me and my friends gather around his television to watch the final of the T20 World Cup against India. Sri Lanka are chasing 131 to win their first global silverware since 1996. Dilshan gets out; 41/2. But Sri Lanka have Mahela Jayawardane, their man for a crisis, the big game player, the only man who has centuries in a world cup final and a semi final. Sangakkara is also at the crease, but he is only there to play a supporting role to Mahela's world cup winning innings. 65/3. Mahela throws is away against part-time spinner Suresh Raina. And now, Sri Lanka are only left with Angelo Mathews, Sangakkara and the all rounders and bowlers. But Sangakkara bats like the man he always promised he would be. He bats till he gets a 50. And he bats till Sri Lanka win the world cup. He bats until he turns him self, and Mahela in to world champions. He bats until he has turned him self in to a hero.

Kumar Sangakkara is a hero. 

He was not born one. He was not earmarked as one as a school boy. He was not made in to one as he arrived or as he blossomed. But he batted and batted until he turned him self in to one; until everyone on the field, and everyone on the ground, and everyone watching at home knew for certain that he was one. 
Kumar Sangakkara; the consistent, the masterful, the eloquent. The Hero. 
Within this period, he had scored test hundreds in every country barring the West Indies, where he has only toured twice. He had captained Sri Lanka in two world cup finals. He had given the Collin Cowdrey Lecture, a speech in cricketing lore had been equalized to that of Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela. He had won the hearts of many. But not mine. Not for certain. There were times I loved him and times I hated him. There were times I loved that I hated him, and times that I hated that I loved him. Basically, Kumar Sangakkara and I have been having a Love-Hate relationship for 15 years, that he has no idea about. An unhealthy, cringe-worthy, teeth-grinding yet awe inspiring affair. Kumar Sangakkara is my proof for cognitive dissonance. I think I hate him, yet there are things about him that I absolutely love. And he will always remain to be a hero.

But such an unhealthy relationship must end. And on the last day of the this test, it will. Whether I like it or not, Kumar Sangakkara will walk out of the P.Sara Oval, and will never be seen again in a Sri Lankan jersey. And quite possibly, in a few years time, I will look back and say, he really was the best we ever had. And on that day, my relationship with him, and my cognitive dissonance, would have come one full circle.

Cheers Kumar,
Thank you for everything.