Keep Cricket clean – The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

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By Naushad Amit

Kumar Sangakkara pleads at NCC Felicitation

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Sanga reunited with his former NCC mates, Rangana Herath and Russel Arnold – Pic by Amila Gamage

Sri Lanka cricket legend Kumar Sangakkara was critical in underlining the responsibility of domestic cricket clubs’ to keep the sport clean from corruption, as the country’s reputation hangs in the balance with the blend of occurrences in the recent past. Former Sri Lanka skipper Sangakkara, was felicitated by his domestic side, the Nondescript Cricket Club (NCC), on his recent feat of being appointed President of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

Sangakkara, 41, will be the first non-British President of the MCC, considered the home of cricket, and his one-year term begins in 23 days. The former southpaw’s tenure includes two Tests at Lord’s – against West Indies and Pakistan – and the launch of The Hundred competition. But Sangakkara highlighted NCC, as his home of cricket, and stated that the Sri Lankan club could continue to be in the forefront in nurturing the top structure, as it has been doing for many years.

“I’m not going to exaggerate this, but there are 43 investigations in the world today and 23 are in Sri Lanka, to do with corruption. Sri Lanka needs to make a stand, we as a club, as a cricket side, as an administration, to ensure to keep this sport as clean as we possibly can. NCC can start that with educating the players, making sure that everyone has a trustworthy system to depend on a support structure that allows them to play this game without a fear, with the best spirit of the game, with excellent skill and never ever be part of a system that compromise as who they are and the value of the game that we all love,” speaking in front of a large crowd, Sangakkara said.

During his playing career, Sangakkara scored 12,400 Test runs, and piled up over 14,000 ODI runs, the second all time best in world cricket. He also has nearly 1,400 Twenty20 International runs for Sri Lanka, besides his wicketkeeping skills, which made him the best wicketkeeper batsman in recent history.

Sangakkara will succeed Anthony Wreford as MCC’s first non-British President, and will lead the guardians of the laws of the game and upholders of the spirit of cricket, for the next 12 months. Even Sangakkara was surprised at the fact that he was picked for the position.

“From the long period ever since I played my first Test match to the Cowdrey Lecture, to the MCC’s connection to the Foundation of Goodness, where I’m a Trustee, and then of course the honorary life membership of MCC, of having my portrait being hung on the wall alongside Mahela (Jayawardene) and Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan), could be the little incidents that probably paved the way for my nomination as the President. I feel very lucky,” he said.

Explaining further on his upcoming role Sangakkara stated that Anthony Wreford, the current President of MCC, has done an amazing amount of work, and that he expects to carry forward the good work. But Sangakkara will be committed to not making comments during his tenure as MCC President.

“I’ll have to really decide how I’m going to be of service. That’s a role I’m really looking forward to, and it’s been really heartening to see the support in Sri Lanka and beyond as a result. Let’s see how it all goes, probably in an year’s time I will explain it better and definitely something special”.

The former Trinity and NCC cricketer, has played around the world including the IPL, CPL, Big Bash, PSL, BBL and the county circuit, before calling it a day at the age of 37. During his career of 18 years in all circuits and 16 years as a national cricketer, Sri Lanka was recognised as one of the sides with a clean and genuine record, in terms of playing and reputation. But the recent years have been tough to digest to cricketers, as well as administrators, in a country where cricket is almost a religion.

“With regard to corruption in cricket, unfortunately Sri Lanka has had quite a few incidents in the recent past. That’s not a great place to be, and no one will like any player, past or present, to be caught up in anything of that sort. But unfortunately we live and learn. And another instance where NCC and its culture can contribute, is to ensure that these lessons, that we’ve learnt over the recent past, are actually put into practice, where there is awareness and education and everyone takes the responsibility, I’m sure that this game that we all love will stay clean from the club level and beyond. It’s absolutely essential that it happens, or else this game will die,” showing gratitude to NCC’s contribution in making him a world figure in cricket, Sangakkara said.

A large crowd, including parents of Sangakkara, his wife Yehali, family members, friends and cricketing buddies of Sri Lanka’s most sought after batsman, gathered at the event, where a fleet of former national cricket stars were also present. Former NCC and Sri Lanka top order batsman and renowned cricket commentator Russell Arnold, did the honours as the Master of Ceremonies. The event was organised by the NCC Office Bearers.

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