I remember very well the moment I first fell for Kumar Sangakkara. It wasn’t at Lord’s, or any other cricket ground, but in a sideroom at the offices of the Terrence Higgins Trust in King’s Cross. And he wasn’t playing a cover drive, or diving to take a catch, but interviewing HIV and Aids workers about their day jobs. Sangakkara was, still is, an ambassador for the ICC’s Think Wise campaign, run in partnership with Unaids and Unicef. He had asked the ICC to arrange a roundtable chat with experts in the field. A couple of journalists had been invited along to provide, I assumed, a little positive publicity, to watch him pose for a photo, pass on a couple platitudes, then pop off in his limousine.
Turned out Sangakkara couldn’t have cared less whether the press were there or not, and had little interest in talking cricket. Instead, he spent an hour at the head of a long table, listening to representatives from various charities, some of whom had only a vague idea who he was. “I am here to learn,” he told them, “I am very privileged to be here among you, to talk to you and, more than that, to listen to you. Because when I do put my face out there for the ICC I would like to be informed as much as possible, to be able to back up what I say with factual knowledge.” The only photos he posed for were the ones the staff asked him to be in. “Whatever you do it is not about doing it in front of 20 cameras,” he said. “It is when there are no cameras and no one there to write about it or talk about it.”