Every fan is invested in the career of their favourite players, and I’d rather remember a great legacy like that of Kumar Sangakkara than a grand goodbye like Sachin’s.
I loved watching Brian Lara.
I was upset when Lara retired, not just because he would be no more, but because I felt he went prematurely. He retired in 2006/7, when he was 36, but when I was just 13.
This feeling of being robbed of some sumptuous Lara runs was compounded when contemporaries like Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, Shiv Chanderpaul and others, continued right until they were 40.
The question of when to go is really a dilemma that bugs fans as well as players.
On the one hand, you want to see your favourite players play on and on, but on the other hand, everyone forges a legacy, that must end at some point.
I remember Lara walking off in his final innings, thinking that he could have carried on, but in recent years, I’ve had to change my view.
His abrupt ending was not right, but at the same time, Sachin Tendulkar’s legacy was arguably tarnished by his decision to play on too long.
He played on until 2013, when he was 40. But he had scored just over 500 runs in his last 15 Tests. He was playing for numbers and records, chasing a nice figures, like getting to 200 Tests, 100 international hundreds, and 15,000 runs.
Like the three bears, if Sachin played too long, Lara was cut off prematurely, one batsman got it just right, and is perhaps the model for future great retirees.
Despite being fifth on the all-time Test run scoring list, Kumar Sangakkara is so often overlooked as a true ‘great’.
But, perhaps one hallmark of greatness, is knowing when to quit.
His exit was slow, starting with International retirement in 2015, done at a time when he could have continued. He scored 1,400runs in 2014, averaging over 70. He left us wanting more.
Despite no more international ambition, unlike Sachin and Brian Lara, after retiring Kumar Sangakkara climbed down to domestic cricket. He scored a thousand First Class runs for Surrey, averaged in the mid-forties in List A cricket, and got through 46 T20s in 2016.
He recognised that retirement is a process that requires the sequential relinquishing of responsibilities.
This week, in an interview with Island Cricket, the Sri Lankan Legend shows no regrets. Speaking about his retirement, he said: “..my mind was made up at that time and I was not going to think of reasons that were quite selfish [to continue].
“..in my view, when you know it is time to go, no matter what is in front of you, you have to make a decision and stick to it..”
He fulfilled his desire to carry on in some capacity, whilst not jeopardising the legacy he’d built up.
Sadly, he has got to the bottom rung of the ladder.
He has just been dropped by his Big Bash League side, the Hobart Hurricanes after scoring just 173 runs at 14.41 without a fifty.
Damian Wright, the coach spoke about dropping Sangakkara, saying it “was comfortably the hardest thing I’ve had to do… because of the quality person that he is”. He says: “You could feel he probably knew it was coming. He was pretty apologetic that he hasn’t gone as well he would have liked it.’”
Retirement might be hard, but remembering a batsman’s retirement is the biggest curse a player can have.
I’ll remember Sachin walking down the steps for the last time, and I’ll remember Lara walking off for the last time. I can’t remember Sanga’s last Test.
He showed no regrets about retirement or bitterness from his decline. He showed no greed to carry on for Sri Lanka, but a hunger to continue in another capacity.
Not being able to remember Sangakkara’s finale is the biggest complement one can pay him.