Kumar Sangakkara: Just what every sportsman needs – a grumpy dad to say how useless they are

It is a surprise in itself that a single dissenting voice has been found among the praise that reverberated around the cricket world at the news of Sangakkara's retirement – that it  belongs to his father is nothing short of spectacular

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The Independent Online

If you don’t remember The Fast Show’s brilliant Competitive Dad character, don’t worry, you shouldn’t need to linger too long in any public park around the country before one comes along.

That his two boys were not yet 10 years old didn’t prevent Competitive Dad from mercilessly pulverising them at whatever that week’s sporting contest happened to be, much to the dismay of his rather feeble wife. Squash balls were fired at heads at electrifying speeds, wrists all but snapped in half in arm-wrestling contests and, particularly memorably, feeble underarm deliveries were time and again dispatched high over the houses with dad running between the stumps counting out his runs into the thousands in the fading sun.

That Competitive Dad was never once suddenly dispatched to the car park at the hands of an immaculate pre-pubescent drive through the covers is a great pity, but his inevitable reaction has at least been perfectly captured by Mr Kshema Sangakkara.

One has to imagine it does not please Kshema that he will for ever be better known as Kumar Sangakkara’s dad, but he has at least secured a small place in history. It is a surprise in itself that a single dissenting voice should have been found, among the gushing chorus of praise that reverberated around the cricket world at the news of the retirement of one of the game’s true greats. That the voice should belong to his own father is nothing short of spectacular.

“Kumar did well, don’t get me wrong. But did he achieve his true potential? I don’t think so,” Sangakkara Snr told The Indian Express, days after his son retired with 12,400 Test runs, or fifth on the all-time list. It is the sort of line that is periodically met a day later with complaints of having been “misquoted” or “taken out of context”. Except that in this case it’s taken from a lengthy article, penned by Kshema himself, and it certainly doesn’t stop there.

“Everybody speaks about his average being in the same league of Graeme Pollock and Garry Sobers, but Kumar could have done better. He too often let bowlers dismiss him rather than them having to get him out.”

What a burden it must be to have sired such an underachiever. “He never reached a great level in T20 cricket,” his father graciously points out. “Even if he was there in the middle when Sri Lanka won the World T20 last year.” Geoff Hurst’s parents never quite put it this way.

It’s possible that the whole thing is a wind-up, a little in-joke between the pair of them, and if that’s the case then well done, but for those of us out of the loop it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the elder Sangakkara is something of an arse.

“Kumar and I have always had our debates, on cricket mostly,” he writes. “But in most cases, in my opinion I get the better of him in our healthy discussions.” So there we have it. Well done you.

Nor can those of us out of the loop know quite how much this evidently impossible quest to impress his father has contributed to Sangakkara’s phenomenal accomplishments (even if, as far his dad is concerned “the one batsman I admired a lot was Sunil Gavaskar”.)

Romantic love aside, pleasing dad is about the most potent force in humanity’s cultural history. Hamlet might have led an altogether more relaxed existence were it not for daddy’s unreasonable demands from beyond the grave. That the current Hamlet’s mother has been insisting that her son is a “bloody good Hamlet” is precisely why the moderately successful actor Benedict Cumberbatch will never amount to anything.

As Johnny Cash observed, had the unfortunately monikered but fictional boy named Sue not spent his entire life determined to murder his dad, he would never have made it to such exalted heights as smashing a chair across his teeth in a Gatlinburg saloon bar.

Where this unprecedented attack places Sangakkara Snr in the firmament of eccentric sporting dads is difficult. The Williams sisters might never have even watched a game of tennis without dad Richard. And there is an understandable tendency to prefer the likes of Jim Redmond, father and unlikely carrier of son Derek round the Barcelona bend at the 1996 Olympics. It’s hard to imagine Kshema Sangakkara troubling himself to the same degree.

Sangakkara – Kumar that is – is currently having a think about what to do with his retirement. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister has offered the High Commissioner to Great Britain job, and appears to be serious. He had considered becoming a lawyer too, though in the words of dad: “He’ll be 50 by the time he’s established. There’s no point.”

Now that he no longer has to watch his son, we would like to suggest a new career in sports management for Sangakkara Snr. Even if they don’t know it yet, many a sportsman could benefit from a voice on hand to constantly tell them how useless they are. Cristiano Ronaldo would be a good place to start.

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