Go gently, my friend


PhotoWhen I was following the Test match at the MCG and dealing with its aftermath, the melodies that seeped into my mind was those of the haunting classic: ‘Seasons in the Sun’.

“Goodbye to you, my trusted friend.

"We’ve known each other since we were nine or 10 [actually more like 15 or 16],

"Together we climbed [cricketing] hills and trees, learned of [sports,] love and A-B-Cs, skinned our hearts and skinned our knees.

"Goodbye my friend it’s hard to die."

For a person who is not perhaps brave enough to be openly emotional, it is a testimony to my affection for you that such lyric invade my mind.

All this talk of retirement might be presumptuous, but I hope the timing of your retirement will have all the class and grace of your strokes.

I hope you would not fault me for being fickle. The majority of my kind — sports fans — are that, however I think the time is right not just for us, but for you as well.

Last few years of peaks and lows and the conflicts must be surely hard on you. The emotional rollercoaster of success and failure in pursuit of glory in front of the whole world is something that I can’t even fathom. Age is perhaps immaterial, but the last 15 years cannot have been entirely kind on your body as well.

I hope you would find inner peace in knowing the fun you have given us, and that we cherish your memories. I hope you are able to look beyond any of the disappointments you may have, knowing that we will look beyond that to remember the many glories you have given us.

Just in case your memory seems hazy in your dark moments, let me remind you of Galle 1998 vs New Zealand, Adelaide 1999 vs Australia, Dambulla 2005 vs India, Lords 2006 vs England, SSC 2006 vs South Africa, Sabina Park 2007 vs New Zealand and Galle 2012 vs England etc.

Know that the thought of supporting someone else to take your place leaves me feeling a bit dirty. You were my greatest sporting affection, as I became a man. You will always have a special place in my heart.

I am excited to see the next generation, but that is tempered with the thought of your loss. There are hopes and dreams, but there is also a tear in my eye.

I trust that you won’t see this as a betrayal, but merely as a passage of time, and you will have the magnanimity to give the new guys the benefit of your experience and wisdom.

Now how this whole IPL thing came about with you guys, has left a bitter taste in my mouth in a way which is perhaps irrational. But, I am sure you know that the relationship between a sporting icon and his fans are too emotionally complex to be entirely explained in a rational framework.

Let us not quibble today on that, but hope that the next generation will find the right balance and the Sri Lankan cricket fans are once again able to connect to their heroes as you and I did.

Whether you chase power, money or solitude for the rest of your life, and you are being criticized for the avenue you choose, or the way that you pursue that avenue, know that there will always be one person who will look back at the years we had and have a kind word to say on your behalf.

I can’t promise that I won’t be critical given that your predecessors have sorely tested my loyalties in that regard, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt wherever possible and I will be gentle in any of my criticisms.

Through my rose tinted glasses, I expect you to achieve more in retirement than most of the guys who came before and you have my very best wishes.

Selfishly, I wish that it would be in cricket, in finding the next Akila or coaching the next Mahela. I hope whatever avenue you choose will keep you busy, since an idle mind is dangerous. More than anything else, in retirement from cricket, I wish that you would find greater happiness in your family life since children are a most astonishing thing. And a good wife, as you surely know, is not too bad either. You have given me many warm moments my friend and I thank you for that.

Leave a Comment