By Dilshani Palugaswewa
It has been an absolute pleasure to watch your journey unfold through the years as you scored runs between wickets, slammed the ball out of the stadium, buried your opponent’s wishful fate literally in your hands with your masterclass catches and went for your well-timed cover drives – and you still continue to shine beyond the boundary lines.
What makes you an icon to reckon with is not just the stunning number of international accolades and achievements you have accumulated over the years to your name but also the rare species of sportsmanship you exude both on and off the field – a combination of grace, humility, quality and discipline that is very rare to come by, especially today.
In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say the reason I began to love the game of cricket, was you – the only time I can say I have ever been patriotic. Never had I previously sat through a game from the very first ball, down to the last, for a bunch of men running up, down and across the field, all for one ball being tossed around.
But like all the rest, I believe you had something special to captivate spectators the way you did and command a game with your calm demeanour –that is of course apart from the few occasions we’ve seen you slam bats upon your exit with low runs and at times while mid-fielding when you’d failed to mask your outrage – and exceptional skills. From your classy strokes to true team spirit, an impressive captaincy run, a plethora of record-breaking performances, and your remarkable ability to put on a show across all forms of cricket, it was always pure joy to watch you play passionately.
Nervous nineties were almost never a problem for you, neither were stressful innings because you excelled at critical thinking – absolute beauty it was to watch you run the show. Whether it was batting, bowling, fielding or captaining and now coaching, you always put up a fight. It is safe to say, you’ve made world cricket a whole lot interesting, challenging and effortless at the same time.
Being inducted to the ICC Wall of Fame is no easy feat, and as I imagine for any cricketer this marks the recognition of a glorious career and outstanding achievement, needless to say, you rightfully deserve this honour.
There are only a handful of players we can recall in the history of Sri Lankan Cricket that we are truly proud of, and you definitely come out on top of that list – at least for me. In fact, you are a perfect role model for both, those aspiring to take the same stage as you and those already representing our country in the same capacity you did.
Your leadership not only carried on the true legacy of Sri Lankan Cricket at a time when the heavyweights of our game were stepping down, but you, time and again proved to be one of the finest our nation has ever produced, right from the start when you helped re-establish our team as a powerhouse within the sport.
Heartiest congratulations on this recent honour, rewarding your spectacular international career. Like I said before, it truly has been a delight to have you represent us in the international arena and watch you grow from strength to strength while you did.
No matter who comes and goes, I can assure you, for the whole of Sri Lanka, you will forever be the pride of the Lions.