There’s always something to be said about back stories—the people, the spouses, the families behind a sportsperson’s successes.
Two stalwarts of the game—Kumara Sangakkara and Michael Clarke—retire from the game having announced their exit some time before.
Much has been written about them; tributes have been paid—ad nauseam.
But what about the women in their lives?
Yehali Sangakkara is the talk of the town ever since stunning pictures with her hubby hit the sports pages.
The dynamic and sultry beauty expressed her sentiments about her counterpart returning home.
Speaking to Sony Six, Yehali said:
“He is an extremely messy person, the messiest on earth. But he loves to cook and absolutely loves making pasta at home.We never discussed cricket at home and always made sure there was life away from the sport at home. Conversations revolved around kids and made sure there was life beyond the sport.Kumar is a very relaxed, open sort of person. He has never demanded much. (But) He will have to get used to our routine now. He will of course still play some cricket for a year or two.”
Yehali and Kumara have known each other since their school days. They dated for eight years before settling down.
The wicketkeeper-batsman says:
“In my case, it (marriage) keeps me grounded and gives me a base where I can think my life out, refocus and renew energies for the next day.”
The 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture is Yehali’s favoured Sanga moment when it comes to cricket.
Here’s a sample of her spouse’s famed words:
“Ladies and Gentleman, the history of my country extends over 2500 years.
A beautiful island situated in an advantageously strategic position in the Indian Ocean has long attracted the attentions of the world at times to both our disadvantage and at times to our advantage.
Sri Lanka is land rich in natural beauty and resources augmented by a wonderfully resilient and vibrant and hospitable people whose attitude to life has been shaped by volatile politics both internal and from without.
In our history you will find periods of glorious peace and prosperity and times of great strife, war and violence. Sri Lankans have been hardened by experience and have shown themselves to be a resilient and proud society celebrating at all times our zest for life and living.
Sri Lankans are a close knit community. The strength of the family unit reflects the spirit of our communities. We are an inquisitive and fun-loving people, smiling defiantly in the face of hardship and raucously celebrating times of prosperity.
Living not for tomorrow, but for today and savouring every breath of our daily existence. We are fiercely proud of our heritage and culture; the ordinary Sri Lankan standing tall and secure in that knowledge.
Over four hundred years of colonization by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British has failed to crush or temper our indomitable spirit. And yet in this context the influence upon our recent history and society by the introduced sport of cricket is surprising and noteworthy.
Sri Lankans for centuries have fiercely resisted the Westernisation of our society, at times summarily dismissing western tradition and influence as evil and detrimental.
Yet cricket, somehow, managed to slip through the crack in our anti-Western defences and has now become the most precious heirloom of our British Colonial inheritance.
Maybe it is a result of our simple sense of hospitality where a guest is treated to all that we have and at times even to what we don’t have.
If you a visit a rural Sri Lankan home and you are served a cup of tea you will find it to be intolerably sweet. I have at times experienced this and upon further inquiry have found that it is because the hosts believe that the guest is entitled to more of everything including the sugar. In homes where sugar is an ill-affordable luxury a guest will still have sugary tea while the hosts go without.”
Speaking to Wisden India, Sangakkara elaborated on his partnership with Yehali:
“I met her in Kandy, we were in two schools that had the same founder. Rev Ireland Jones founded Trinity and then Hillwood College in Kandy. I met her there when I was about 16-17 and have been with her for well over 20 years now. And it’s been the best partnership of my life, without a doubt. We have two beautiful children and she’s a very practical, very sensible lady who minces no words in telling me exactly what she thinks of my cricket or what I do or the decisions that I make. Not in any technical sense but in a sense of whether what the thought processes are that go into making these decisions. She has been one of the most important figures in keeping me grounded and ensuring that there is sanity at home. There is order when I am playing. When I am away from home, I have always travelled with them, with my wife and my children. I have been very, very blessed to have her in my life and hopefully, she will decide to stay with me for many years longer.”
Sangakkara’s wife was expecting when the Sri Lankans were attacked in Pakistan. Recalling that gruesome event, the former skipper said:
“Yes, actually my wife was a few months pregnant, quite pregnant by the time we were attacked. So actually I called her and I spoke to her and I said listen, we were driving to the ground and there has been a bit of a shooting but everyone’s fine. Don’t worry about anything. That’s all I told her, I didn’t tell her anything about who got hurt, who got hit and all of this. But unfortunately, there were news items being run saying I got hit in the head and people have died and all these things and she was panicking. I got a few calls and at the end of the day I said listen, I am talking to you, so that means I am fine! But at the same time, I can understand the stress that she was going through. It was easier for us because we knew exactly what was happening but they weren’t getting the news quickly enough or clearly enough. And it was hugely stressful not just on her but all the families and you could see when we landed that the relief they had to have us back and at home in Sri Lanka. It was quite a tough time.”
If Kumara is the man-about-town, his other half is no less enterprising.
Yehali took over a television microphone when she ‘interviewed’ an Aussie spectator at his final Test in Colombo.
The Australian was all paeans.
“I love Kumar. He is one of the all-time greats of cricket. I am an Australian but am a huge supporter of Sri Lankan cricket.It’s a sad day to see Kumar retire but we will always remember his great innings.”
“I think he went through the normal process – from school to NCC to ‘A’ team and then to the national team. The process worked and he became mature.We are blessed to have a very supportive family. Kumar’s parents and siblings are very supportive. We have good friends around us who keep us grounded. He always believes in doing the right thing. He says, ‘If you do the right thing, good will follow’. He has always taken responsibility on himself rather than pointing fingers at others.”
To be continued…