Do you remember the brilliant catch Nuwan Kulasekera took off Suraj Randiv in the 2011 World Cup Final?, I bet you wouldn’t because it never happened. But what if Kulasekara had taken that catch? It’s an eternal question that lingers in the mind of Lankan fans. Join the fantasy journey ,letting lose the imagination.
Everything remains the same as it had unfolded until the moment Kulasekera at long off,dropped Gautam Gambhir off Suraj Randiv around the 13th over with the Indian score 60 odd for two wickets.
Alternate series of events:
With Sachin and Sehwag back in the hut Gambhir and a young Kohli were building a partnership putting India back on track. Sangakkara introduced Suraj Randiv; probably the only player ever to have played a World Cup final straight without being even part of the squad before. Gambhir tried to clear the wide long off boundary to put pressure on Randiv. Unfortunately Gambhir succeeded only in holding out to Kulasekera at long off who ran in, dived forward and grabbed a stunner leaving India three down with 67 on the board in the 13th over. Skipper Sangakkara’s audacity to bring Randiv into the final eleven, a much criticized move was instantly rewarded.
In an unprecedented change Mahendra Singh Dhoni, plagued with scarcity of form marched out ahead of the in-form Yuvraj. The skipper was showcasing greater confidence that what Sehwag had elicited prior reviewing two plumb LBWs in the Semis and the Finals. As Dhoni’s struggled against the spin and bounce of Randiv and Murali, young Virat tried to wrest the momentum from Sri Lanka with aggresive strokeplay, running between wickets and a bit of verbal diarrhoea.
At 99 for 3 Virat pushed Dhoni for a non existent single to covers, where Dilshan ran onto the ball faster than the rate at which Gambhir speaks and threw the stumps down at the keepers end. India were in tatters at 99/4, with Dhoni caught short of the crease. Young Virat with his energy and aggression,on the biggest stage had sold the struggling skipper down the river.
Sangakkara’s astute leadership came to the fore when he brought back his trump card Malinga to deal with the in- form Yuvraj. Malinga dealt telling blows running through the Indian middle order, cleaning up Yuvraj with a searing in swinging yorker and having Raina caught at short backward square leg in quick succession. Randiv accounted for young Virat with an amazing return catch of his own bowling (Sorry Dilshan). In no time India were in disarray at 160/7 with all leading batsman back in the hut.
Some late order pinch hitting from Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh propelled the scored to a respectable 210, but not anywhere close to Sri Lanka’s imposing 274. It was exactly the opposite of what India had hoped for. It turned out to be a perfect send off for Murali, gate crashing Sachin’s Mumbai dream- World Cup edition.
The magician Murali in his last outing cleaned up the tail in no time handing Sri Lanka an emphatic 64 run victory on the grandest cricketing stage.
Meanwhile Shane Warne went on a twitter rant saying how unfair it is for Murali to keep boosting his wickets tally by cleaning up cheap tail end wickets. Warne didn’t forget to mention that he had no jealousy towards Murali but it was his duty towards the game to point out facts.
Nevertheless, it turned out to be a day where all decisions Sangakkara made turned out to be master strokes. From making up fraudulent reasons to win the toss, batting first and bringing in Randiv, all decisions worked like magic. So much so that unverified reports suggest, Indian premier Manmohan Singh even had called the Lankan president HE Mahinda Rajapaksa during mid way of the Indian innings to see if Eliyantha White ( The go to doctor for HE Mahinda Rajapaksa) had infused a tonic that bought extraterrestrial power to Sangakkara’s brain. However Rajapakse had flatly denied it stating even if an attempt was made it wouldnt have made much of a difference since there was too much Oscal Wilde content in the skipper Sangakkara’s brain.
The sight of Sangakkara casually removing his gloves and walking from behind the stumps with a smile became as iconic as Imran Khan holding the cup in 1992 and Arjuna Ranatunga lifting the World Cup in 1996. It was a smile of achievement implying he knew exactly what he was doing all through out like bringing in Randiv for the final directly and tricking the mighty MSD into a repeat toss despite knowing well he had lost the first flip of the coin (an event which he would back up with a well thought out narrative blaming the noise levels at the ground forever rather adamantly) it was a smile that swore at all the arm chair critics who questioned his loyalties to the national team, criticized his decisions and even portrayed him as a mercenary for playing a part canceling a English tour over IPL in 2008 in the most politest of ways.
What followed after the World Cup
Indian skipper MSD was stripped off captaincy after his selfish act of trying to steal the show in the final despite having a poor run. Yuvraj’s father Yograj Singh even went to the extent of filing a fundamental rights case in courts against MSD for denying Yuvraj the opportunity to bat at his original slot,out of pure jealousy. Like every other case in India it’s still pending hearing, and only Yograj Singh seems to remember it.
Gautam Gambhir was entrusted with the leadership of the team. A decision BCCI regretted later as he often engaged in twitter rants with Afridi than winning battles on the field. The issue was so serious that they sought Saurav Ganguly to hand out anger management lessons to Gambhir in a bid to prolong his leadership tenure. During his time the gap between the neighbours escalated as Sangakkara, smartly employed Russel Arnold’s ability to annoy people and provoke Gambhir whenever Sri Lanka played India. Gamnhir’s twitter battles with Arnold distracted him on the field which led to Sri Lanka prevailing over India in all formats. It’s no secret that Sanga paid Russel handsomely to Russel by sending kalu dodhal to his Aussie residence. A Lankan delicacy which Russel was in love head over heals
Meanwhile poor Virat Kohli joined the infamous list of players who have been victimised for running out seniors. The chubby cheeked Delhi lad struggled to overcome the trauma of the backlash and ate more and more aloo paratas and chapathis with ghee, much to the delight of his mom, to make sure that his mobility between the wickets was restricted so that he wouldnt risk running out aging seniors like Sachin, Sehwag and jeporodising his career further. (A generation of Sri Lankan bowlers would just not know how much trauma they would have had to suffer at the hands of this lad had things gone any other way). A bromance that promised to blossom between two fit, quick runners between the wickets was nipped in the bud due to the unfortunate run out. An event that would push India’s progress by years
In Sri Lanka
Sangakkara’s leadership skills made the nation realise they probably had a statesman in the making.
Mahela, was relieved he would not be entrusted with leadership again and deal with cricketing politics. He spent his off time watching his favorite Manchester United playing and that enjoyment spilled over to his cricket making him pile up century after century. Sanga followed Arjuna’s theory of keeping his best batsman happy by letting Mahela win all the warm up foot ball duels, overlooking his fouls and help him compensate for the frustration of seeing his favorite Manchester United lose. If it was Ice Cream for Aravinda, it was foot ball for Mahela.
The World Cup win meant that the board had to listen to to what Sangakkara said. There was not an iota of politics in the side, the seniors scaled new heights, the youngsters blossomed. A window for IPL was created in Sri Lankan calendar much to the annoyance of the great Arjuna Ranatunga and delight of Charile Austin in particular.
Sangakkara’s public praise of how much he missed Angelo in the final to an extent which made even Mahela jealous ,made the youngster work harder than ever, so much so that Angelo stopped drinking Milo, showcasing his commitment. The decision paid dividends as Angelo went onto become a envied allrounder who inspired the likes of Andre Russel and Ben Stokes to improve their work ethic and fitness in an attempt to match the Mathews magic. Stokes recently in his autobiography went on to reveal how much of an inspiration Angelo turned out to be for him to become what he is today .
Sangakkara’s tenure following the 2011 World Cup win saw Sri lanka win two World T20s in 2012 and 2014 orchestrating a golden era in Lankan cricket. Meanwhile in the 2012 T20 final, Kulasekera caught another blinder off a dangerous looking Marlon Samuels to close the match for Sri Lanka.
Where Sangakkara is now
On the day Sangakkara retired from test cricket, Sri Lanka’s former president Mathripala Sirisena made an unimaginable offer, though it wasn’t a friday night, to Sangakkara asking him to take up a diplomatic position in a foreign country. Sangakkara’s father who had been annoyed by the hashtag #Kumarsdad on Twitter surrounding his unrealistic expectations,made Sangakkara realize what an underachiever he was on the cricketing field and urged him to pay the debt he owned for the country as a penalty for under utilizing his talent, through serving in diplomatic circles.
Just like Sanga obliged his dad’s request to do Law he said yes to this too. Later he revealed that his dad had put down one condition that he shoudnt drop out from his diplomatic journey,citing his desires to play golf or catch crabs.
Though most of the ambassadors were apprehensive about his suitability mainly due to his tendency sledge, which could lead to international conflicts; Kumar’s statuture in diplomatic circles grew at a faster rate than the rate at which Sri Lanka cricket proposes new stadiums.
Today,he is touted to become the Secretary General of United Nations in near future. Two points have been highlighted supporting his candidacy. His handling of notorious Sri Lanka cricket and its office bearers showcasing exceptional crisis handling skills, his reconciliation skills in making Dilshan and Tharanga; a duo who could never forgive each other,forge a champion partnership at the top driving Sri Lanka to success.
Most importantly global diplomats are of the opinion that he is the best person to tackle Donald Trump’s madness . At least if he cant convince him the world believes he can confuse him with his eloquent Bristish English which even many British find difficult to understand.
Now Sangakkara represents Sri Lanka as the ambassador in UK awaiting entry into UN. Despite his language proficiency being his forte Sangakkara keeps his tweets plain simple and doesn’t pull out phrases from the books his father made him read or the Oscar Wilde which he used to read. Sri Lankan fans are releived that he hasn’t considered the path chosen by Sri Lanka’s opposition leader Sajith Premadasa in twitter communication.
Surprisingly in a candid social media interview recently Sanga revealed how the English approached him back in 2011and offered him a British passport and asked him to play for Englad and lead them towards the 2015 World Cup citing his command of queen’s language which let even the English searching for dictionaries, and visionary leadership skills However he had denied it mainly as punctuality was important in English culture and that alone was enough to act as a deterrent for Sangakkara who is notoriously known for being on time for meetings.
Nevertheless it is safe to say Kumar Sangakkara has not only left an indelible impression on the cricketing field but also off it. He has turned out to be a torch bearer in the world of diplomacy, continuing to fight Sri Lanka’s case in diplomatic circles.
Despite all this when we look back we would realize had Kulasekera dropped that difficult chance off Gambhir things would have been different, That famous smile on Sangakkara’s face after the game could well have been a sign of regret and disappointment than a sense of achievement. United Nations most importantly would have lost a future leader.