Q and A with Rex Clementine, in The Island, 3 June 2011
The greatest batsman produced by Sri Lanka to date, Aravinda de Silva achieved several milestones in his international career that spanned for two decades, but a Test hundred at Lord’s, the Home of Cricket, eluded him. (He scored 107 forKentat Lord’s in the Benson and Hedges Final againstLancashire). Another Sri Lankan great, Kumar Sangakkara, who will soon be 34 and is unlikely to be around by the time the team toursEnglandnext time in five years, is keen to have his name on the Lord’s Honours Board. Sangakkara, in fact hasn’t scored a hundred in England having played seven matches here and The Island caught up with Sri Lanka’s number three batsman ahead of the second Test at Lord’s that gets underway today. In this candid interview, Sangakkara explains why it’s hard for a batsman inEnglandand how he has prepared for the second Test here at Lord’s. He also talks about Sri Lanka’s humiliating defeat in Cardiff and gives a hint about his Lord Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Speech scheduled for 4th of July at Lord’s.
Kumar talks to staff and students at St. Patricks’ College, 2011
Here are the excerpts.
Question: In cricket to excel in England is considered as the hallmark of a great team. Why is that so?
Sangakkara: It’s really testing out here. The conditions and the particular type of ball that’s been used here are all challenging, especially if you are a batsman. As a batsman coming to Lord’s, you try to get your name on the Honour’s Board. It’s a great privilege and something that everyone aspires to. All of that makes anEnglandtour interesting. One thing we have to be careful when we come here is to be reactive and change ourselves to try and suit what is supposedly expected of us. Our priority should be to come out here and play positive cricket and our brand of cricket. That should be good enough to beat the England side without reacting to them too much.
Engeltina Cottage, the Sangakkara residence in March 2011 — Pics by Roberts
Question: This is going to be your eighth Test Match in England, but none of your 24 Test hundreds have come in England. What do you think is the reason for that?
Sangakkara: The first time I came, I found it difficult to adjust. I had a few technical glitches too. When we came here four years later in 2006, it was a very scrappy kind of a three Tests we played. Even at that point, I remember having a great opportunity to get a hundred here at Lord’s. I was 60 odd going well and then got out to Monty Panesar having seen off Flintoff and the others. Few mistakes here and there you know. At Trent Bridge, I had an opportunity again getting past 50, but couldn’t convert it. It’s a question of batting for a longer period to keep your concentration. That’s something I think I have improved over the years. I have prepared as well as I can and when I go out there I need to make sure I execute my plans..Question: You reckon you are destined for a big one tomorrow?
Sangakkara: I have prepared as well as I can. I have done all the work at training. Marvan (Atapattu) has been really great. I had a chat with him about my batting. I have made a few adjustments with my batting, so hopefully all those things will pay off.
Question: The Sri Lankans generally have done well at Lord’s starting from 1984. Lot of Sri Lankan batsmen have scored hundreds here as well. Sidath Wettimuny, Duleep Mendis, Amal Silva, Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene, who has scored two hundreds here. Your thoughts?
Sangakkara: We have to be aggressive. Aggressive in our own way. Make sure your intent is very positive and keep in mind that you are out there not to survive but to score runs. You have a game plan effective to those circumstances. The worst thing that you can do is to come and expect the ball to do a lot and try and react to that. That’s not going to work. You must have a very solid and a clear mind. Execute your game plan and keep trusting your ability to do that. All the players I have seen scoring hundreds here have been able to do that.
Question: The defeat in Cardiff must be a huge disappointment?
Sangakkara: Disappointing is an understatement aboutCardiffin regards to our batting. We were horrendous. We know it and have accepted that. No one tries to have a performance like that. We have to take responsibility for that, I think Cardiff was a tough lesson for us and an important one for us as a team. There are no words or anything that can excuse a performance like that. It’s happened to us before. It happened in Cardiff and it was a pathetic batting display in the second innings. We had a confused approach. No one really took the attack to the bowlers or defended in a manner that will see off 50 overs. We were caught in between. I think it was a big wake up call to understand what Test cricket is all about and how tough it is and never to be complacent.
Question: Former England captain Nasser Hussain’s commented that teams like Sri Lanka, West Indies and Pakistan could always struggle under pressure; do you think it’s a fair comment?
Sangakkara: It’s nothing to do with being fair or unfair. It has happened to us before and it happened to us inCardiff. We have to be careful about that. If we are trying to prove ourselves as a very good side, we have been number three in Test rankings coming into this series; we need to ensure that doesn’t happen often. It happens once in a blue moon and we should have the ability and the desire to get through tough periods like that.
Question: The talk about England possessing the tallest attack to play Test cricket, is that going to test the team?
Sangakkara: That’s what they have. We know that and that’s what we are up against. If you are not able to counter that you will lose. It’s a matter of ensuring you prepare as well as you can at the nets. Prepare for every eventuality and ultimately just play the ball. Forget the height and forget everything else. Just play the ball. That’s the kind of focus you need.
Question: You are the first Sri Lankan and the youngest person invited to deliver this year’s Lord Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Speech. How do you feel and what can we expect from you?
Sangakkara: To start with, it’s a great privilege to be invited. What I do speak about hopefully will do justice to the Spirit of Cricket Lecture and I think it has to be a very Sri Lankan perspective on our cricket and world cricket. How we see world cricket. The Sri Lankan brand of cricket is fantastic and it’s a great advertisement for international cricket. I think an intimate look at will be very good.