COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara bid a tearful farewell to international cricket on Monday and was immediately offered the post of the island’s top envoy in Britain where he plays county cricket.
Several thousand cheering fans, many of them school children waving Sri Lankan flags, along with VIPs, turned out to farewell Sangakkara on the final day of the second Test between his team and India in Colombo.
“You have been a great honour to Sri Lanka,” Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said in a televised ceremony at P. Sara Oval for the formidable cricketer after the match.
Sangakkara, who turns out for Surrey in English county cricket, did not directly address Sirisena’s announcement on the diplomatic post, later telling reporters he had been unprepared for the gesture.
“It was a surprise, I have to go and think about it and discuss with his excellency (the president),” Sangakkara said.
During the formal sendoff, the 37-year-old broke down as he thanked his parents for standing by him during his 15 years of cricket.
“All the support and love they showed over the years, whether I played cricket or not, whether I did well or not, the only place I could go and feel safe was home. So thank you ‘amma’ (mother) and ‘apachchi’ (father),” Sangakkara said, fighting back tears, as fans cheered and clapped.
He also praised Indian captain Virat Kohli and his team for their tough opposition during his farewell match which Sri Lanka lost by 278 runs on Monday, allowing the tourists to level 1-1 in the series.
“Thank you for not giving any quarter,” he told the Indian team. “And thank you for really making it a privilege of mine to play against you,” he said.
Sangakkara, the fifth highest run-getter in Test history, finished with 12,400 runs from 134 Tests at an average of 57.40. He scored 38 centuries, including a best of 319 against Bangladesh in Chittagong last year.
He follows Sachin Tendulkar of India, Ricky Ponting of Australia, Jacques Kallis of South Africa and Rahul Dravid of India in the all-time list of leading Test scorers.