Pressure, Kumar Sangakkara reminded everyone yesterday, was being shot at, not playing a game of cricket. But in 15 minutes during which he was articulate, passionate, sensible and profound, the captain of Sri Lanka also made clear the importance of cricket to life.
Sri Lanka have not played since their coach was attacked by terrorists as they made their way to the stadium on the third day of the Second Test against Pakistan in March. Seven players were injured as bullets flew through the vehicle.
"We thought we were Asian, we were a cricket team, we were never going to be attacked in Pakistan," said Sangakkara as he talked of his team's preparations for the World Twenty20. "We were quite wide of the mark and quite naïve."
Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan, the team's leading player as well as team manager Brendon Kuruppu withdrew last week from a speaking engagement at the Oxford Union because of security issues.
"We had requested after Lahore for increased security and to make sure security arrangements were in place because terrorism is now a global threat and the bubble we lived in before Lahore has burst," said Sangakkara. "The Oxford arrangements were unfortunately not made known to our security team well enough in advance for them to set up the necessary arrangements there and that is why it was cancelled.
"At the end of the day after Lahore the thing we have realised is that we have gone through a terrible time but life goes on. We have got to play cricket because cricket for us means normalcy. Of course we will still have a few memories, all of them not very good."
Barely had the team arrived home in Sri Lanka than the civil war entered its horrific final phase with Sinhalese government forces mounting attacks on the strongholds of the Tamil rebels but Sangakkara is in no doubt about the part cricket could play in the healing process. He said: "Cricket over the years has been that one unifying force, a passion of the whole country. It transcends religion, caste, race and politics and that's the greatest thing we as a team represent."
Many more words will be spoken in the next three weeks of the World Twenty20. None will be wiser.Reuse content