Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 17th 2013 Contents A45
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NEWCASTLE---Joe Kinnear has
returned to Premier League side New-
castle as director of football but says
he won t interfere with team selections
by manager Alan Pardew.
The 66-year-old Irishman left New-
castle in 2009 after a heart attack but
has now come back to help recruit new
players and work alongside Pardew.
"Alan s aware of the situation and I m
hoping to meet him sometime tomorrow
to go through the team itself and where
it s glaringly clear we need to improve,"
Kinnear said. Kinnear added he won t
be "picking the team, that s what the
manager gets paid for."
Kinnear returns to Newcastle
Even as he enters the twilight years of his
career, Kumar Sangakkara continues to be
among the world s best and is at the heart
of Sri Lanka s quest to progress
As the years roll on and time begins to
erode the faculties that served batsmen in
their youth, many mighty wielders of willow
begin to see their numbers give way. A once-
fine record that boasted at least a fifty every
four innings, slowly stretches to one in five
or six. What used to be an exceptional strike-
rate might become merely very good. At times
a single manner of dismissal, repeated intol-
erably often, becomes the unmistakable curtain
call for the champions of yesteryear.
At 35 years and seven months, Kumar San-
gakkara commands the best ODI average he
has had since the first six months of his career.
Once an uncertain player of spin, and a limited
strokemaker, he also now has one of the most
complete batting techniques in the world, and
can raise a run-rate with the best. He has
been Sri Lanka s batting talisman in the first
two matches of the Champions Trophy, having
hit 202 and been dismissed only once, and
as they prepare to face Australia in a must-
win encounter, he shapes as the key batsman
once again. That at his age, he is still getting
better, is testament to his ceaseless industry
and his insatiable quest for improvement.
Perhaps more than any other cricketer in
his generation, Sangakkara is not just a sports-
man, he is an institution. Across town from
where Sri Lanka will battle Australia for a
place in the semifinals, Sangakkara delivered
the game s most memorable speech since the
turn of the century. The 2011 Cowdrey Lecture
was not only a colourful lesson on the history
of cricket on his island, and the love for the
game among his people, but an astute appre-
ciation of the privilege of being a top-level
sportsman and the responsibilities therein.
He is the most bankable public figure in
Sri Lanka. He is now sought after as a speaker,
but he is also a better actor in adverts for
telecommunication giants or finance com-
panies than many of the local thespians that
make their living on screen. The seafood
restaurant he co-owns alongside Mahela
Jayawardene is considered one of the best in
the country, and before he was married, he
was among the nation s favourite heartthrobs.
There are still plenty who swoon over his curls
and his cultured air.
Like any good firm, Sangakkara runs terrific
public relations. Eager to impress at every
opportunity, but equally careful never to
offend, he gauges the intended audience of
each interview he gives, and fiddles with each
reply to suit. Many have remarked on his
sharp legal mind, but in another life, he could
have been the among world s smoothest politi-
cians. Even his cover drive, whether deliberately
or not, is an exercise in self-promotion. Mahela
Jayawardene is a more ravishing batsman by
far, but Sangakkara commands the prettiest
stroke in the team, and fans and pundits proj-
ect that elegance on to the rest of his game,
which is largely too utilitarian to be truly
Yet, behind the show, there is also much
substance. Anyone who has played with or
coached Sangakkara will uphold him as a
paragon of professionalism. At training, he is
tireless and intense---always seeking improve-
ment, and never allowing effort to subside.
Jayawardene once described him as a man
who "bats and bats and bats and then keeps
and keeps and keeps". He is not, by a distance,
the most talented batsman Sri Lanka have
ever produced, but in Tests at least, he is now
undoubtedly the best.
"He s a complete batsman," Angelo Mathews
said of Sangakkara. "To me I think he s a role
model to all the youngsters like us, and I think
we ve got a lot to learn from him; the way
he handles pressure, the way he bats and the
way he trains. No 3 is a very crucial position.
That position steadies the whole ship for the
team. He has been doing the job for us for
such a long time."
Sangakkara has a heart that beats forcefully
for Sri Lanka too, and has been active in pro-
moting reconciliation in the post-war north.
He was among the first public figures to visit
schools in the war-struck areas after the con-
flict ended, and has also run a charity that
makes education more accessible there, as
infrastructure is rebuilt. After the hundred
against England at The Oval, he is said to
have shared his Man-of-the-Match prize with
members of the support staff.
"He s got so many, countless awards, and
he s not going after any trophies," Mathews
said. "He just wants to do his best for the
team all the time, and if he can contribute in
any way to help the team win, that will be
the first thing that he ll do."
Sangakkara now has few chances left to
taste the glory of major tournament triumph.
He has spoken candidly of the hurt of previous
lost finals, and perhaps this time, he has
resolved to drive the team s cause forward
himself. Meticulous and indefatigable, another
shot at a title is nothing less than he deserves.
Kumar Sangakkara...meticulous and indefatigable
a Sri Lanka institution
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