On July 20, 2000, Sri Lanka played its first of the three Tests at the Galle International Cricket Stadium against South Africa.
In that game a left-handed wicket-keeper batsman named Kumar Sangakkara confidently walked on to the crease to join his life-time friend to be Mahela Jayawardena at the other end.
On his part, Sangakkara scored twenty three of the 12,203 Test runs that he has scored so far while adding 81 runs for the fourth wicket while his friend went on to score an epic 167. Sri Lanka scored 522 runs in their inning and beat their opponents by an innings and 17 runs with the Proteas batting crumbling twice under the wiles of spinner Muttiah Muralitharan who finished with a match bag of 13 for 171.
A month after the 15th anniversary of that match, Kumar Sangakkara will walk into the middle once again — not as a green horn, but as the No 1 Test cricketer by the ICC ranking and the most prolific and the best left hand batsman that Sri Lanka has ever produced.
Sadly that would be the last time that Kumar would don the Lankan crest officially. Severing all official commitments as a national cricketer, Kumar will retire from International cricket at the end of the match – the sentimental man that he is – coming to the same venue that he launched his illustrious career.
The country’s cricket authorities are not going to let go of this opportunity of felicitating one of Sri Lanka’s greatest cricketing sons in a fitting manner. They are planning a mega event to bid adieu to Kumar. Sri Lanka Cricket Interim Committee President Sidath Wettimuny told the Sunday Times: “The service that Sangakkara has rendered to the game of cricket in this country is inexplicable. He took the game and Sri Lanka cricket as a whole to a different aura, on and off the field, so it is fitting that we reciprocate that service with a fitting finale.
“Fittingly we are playing India in that game and we know there is a huge following for Sangakkara among the billion plus people in that country. So it’s going to be a mega event. We are hoping to invite several dignitaries from both countries to be a part of this event – sad but, every good thing must come to an end.”
The Lanka cricket boss added: “After his retirement SLC will not set him free. We are hoping to get him involved further by appointing him as one of our consultants”. The Indian team is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on August 9 and action will shift to Galle where the first Test match would be played at the Galle International Cricket Stadium from 18 to 22 August.
The second Test match will be played at the Sinhalese Sports Club Grounds from 26 to 30 August. Come September cricket action will be shifted to the hill country where the third Test match will be played from the 3rd to the seventh at Pallekelle.