The Influence of Sangakkara senior…(book extract)
I walk down a quiet, jasmine-scented road in the early- morning sunshine and through the gates of a rambling villa, set in verdant hills, its pleasant, leafy garden spreading out on all sides with glimpses of the sparkling lake below. It is the sort of place a stressed-out modern bowler ought to retreat to. I could be in New Zealand or Italy or Sweden, except that, at 9am, the temperature is already a sweaty 28°C. In fact, I am in Sri Lanka, on the outskirts of the bustling city of Kandy.
I am greeted at the covered porch by a housekeeper and shown into a large, airy room with a small goldfish pond set into the stone floor. There is a familiar sound of young children clattering around in the kitchen and someone play- ing an out-of-tune piano. A friendly, middle-aged Sri Lankan woman offers me a cup of tea. Soon afterwards her son appears, looking a bit bleary eyed as if he has just got up. He probably has. He didn’t get away from the Pallekele Stadium till after 10pm last night, having run the England bowlers and fielders ragged.
This is the house where the world’s number-one-ranked Test batsman, Kumar Sangakkara, grew up and learnt to bat and still returns for a regular check-up when he’s in the coun- try. Perhaps the place should be referred to as a laboratory, because Kumar Sangakkara has got a PhD in batting. Since his Sri Lanka debut in 2000, he has turned art into science, analysing and adapting and fine-tuning his method to score more international runs in the 21st century (almost 28,000 in all formats) than anyone else. I came to find out how he’d done it.
Part of the answer was provided before we’d even sat down. His father Kshema, a retired attorney, emerged from his study brandishing a book. It was Bradman’s The Art of Cricket. It was open at a black-and-white photo-spread of the great man demonstrating the pull shot. ‘This is where you made the mistake yesterday,’ Sangakkara snr declared. ‘Look at the great man, Bradman, and how he played the pull shot!’ He points at the sequence of pictures. ‘Look, you swivel on the ball and roll your wrists to keep it down. Not like you played it!’
Using the book as a makeshift bat, Kshema played the stroke as portrayed by Bradman, pirouetting on his back leg and hit- ting the imaginary ball along the ground. He was overlooking the fact that his son had made a previously faultless 91 the night before and, looking to accelerate in the last ten overs, was only caught on the boundary edge when he attempted to plant Chris Woakes over deep square leg for six. Kumar smiled, accepting the criticism graciously. It was obviously a regular occurrence. (In fact there is a YouTube clip of a similar scene in the family home – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sdx03cSJhHc).
Son has obviously inherited one ingredient from father: perfectionism.