Colombo, Aug 24: None other than Sunil Gavaskar was there to welcome him into the "Former Cricketers' Club" as Sri Lankan batting legend Kumar Sangakkara fought back tears in an emotional farewell where the country's President stumped him by offering the High Commissioner's post in the UK.
But the 37-year-old left-hander, who signed off with 12,400 runs in 134 Tests at an average of 57.40, had a wide grin on his face for most part as dignitaries - one after another - showered him with mementos and good wishes in an elaborate farewell ceremony after the match.
"People ask me about the big achievements, the hundreds, the World Cup wins, but I just look up at the box, all my friends over the last 30 years have come up here on a Monday to watch me play. To be able to go back to a family that will love me whether I win or lose, that is my greatest achievement," said Sangakkara in a speech thanking everyone from his former school principal to the formative coaches to the visiting Indians.
Much before the actual ceremony, the affable batsman walked out to warm embraces and handshakes with Virat Kohli's men after the fall of the last Sri Lankan wicket on the fifth day of the match.
Signing autographs and posing for pictures with the ground-staff while the presentation ceremony was on, Sangakkara grinned widely when a special ceremony began to honour his contribution to the game.
The dignitaries included Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Gavaskar and Sri Lanka's only World Cup-winning skipper Arjuna Ranatunga.
"I wish you an excellent second innings in life. I hope it is as incredible as your first innings. And now I welcome you to join...drum roll...former cricketers' club," Gavaskar quipped as he handed out an envelope to Sangakkara, leaving him in splits.
"You have been the big brother in the Sri Lankan dressing room. The sound of the ball hitting your bat and going for a boundary is the sound that no cricket lover would ever forget," said the former captain on a more serious note.
"Fairytale endings are not always possible. Kumar, you manfully shouldered the burden of expectations all these years...You could not go out on a high but what you have achieved over the last decade would be remembered."