Rex Clementine, courtesy of the Sunday Island 9 Feb 2014
You don’t often see Kumar Sangakkara remaining quiet for an extended period of time. Sri Lanka’s number three batsman had an average series against Pakistan where he had a top score of 55 in six innings. Sanga arrived for the series against Bangladesh firmly focused and it was Bangladesh’s bowlers who were at the receiving end in the second Test between the countries in Chittagong as the former Sri Lanka captain became only the second man after Graham Gooch to score a triple hundred and a hundred in the same Test.
There were other milestones as well in Chittagong for the star batsman. In the first innings he equalled Gavaskar and Lara with his 34th Test ton and in the second innings he went past the two greats and currently only Tendulkar (51), Kallis (45), Ponting (41) and Dravid (36) have scored more hundreds in Tests than him. In Chittagong he also completed 11,000 Test runs and became the fastest man to do so. He was also the fastest to 8000 and 9000 runs breaking the records held by Tendulkar and Dravid while he was joint fastest to 10,000 alongside Sachin and Lara, all of whom achieved the milestone in 175 innings.
At the end of the game, Sanga is sure to gain a few positions as well in official ICC Rankings for batsmen.
Sanga has accomplished more than any other Sri Lankan batsman. He has scored Test hundreds in Australia, South Africa and England, some of the places where most Sri Lankans have struggled. No other Sri Lankan has recorded Test hundreds in all three countries.
Aged 36 as he enters the twilight of his career, perhaps Sanga should take a lead role in helping Sri Lanka to achieve some of those elusive milestones.
It’s shocking that despite all those personal milestones and a career that has spanned for 14 years, Sangakkara hasn’t won a Test series away from home except against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Neither has he won an ICC event despite entering the finals on four occasions! Stunning statistics indeed!
It’s not a case of Sanga’s efforts with the bat being not sufficient to help the team win. He’s not one of those types who is obsessed with personal milestones and forgets the team’s cause. Sanga is a sensitive man. He cares for the future of Sri Lankan cricket and whenever he sees a promising talent he helps the player abundantly.
What we would like to see is Sanga to take a wider role to help the team realsie its immense potential and overcome those mental blocks and play the Sri Lankan brand of cricket and achieve glory.
With his intelligence, oratorical skills and experience Sanga can help Sri Lanka to achieve something truly remarkable before he calls it quits.
Within the next 14 months he will have two opportunites to win an ICC event. The World T-20 scheudled for March this year in Bangladesh is a massive opportunity and not just as a batsman but as a senior statesman Sanga needs to contribute in a big way for the nation to go all the way.
Then in early 2015, New Zealand and Australia will be hosting the ICC World Cup. Sanga is unlikely to play the shorter versions of the game after 2015. Following the heart breaks of Bombay 2011 and Barbados 2007 where Sri Lanka lost the finals to India and Australia, there’s one more opportunity to go all the way and the expertise of Sanga is vital for Sri Lanka.
Not just the ICC events, but winning a Test series away from home is extremely vital too. Sanga wouldn’t want to be remembered as a player who failed to win a series away from home. A milestone Sri Lanka’s best batsman before him Aravinda de Silva achieved in both New Zealand and Pakistan.
Sri Lanka will have two ideal opportunities when they undertake two overseas tours later this year. In May they will be in England while in December, Sri Lanka will travel to New Zealand. With England in disarray after a 5-0 Ashes whitewash, there is an opportunity for Sri Lanka to achieve something remarkable.
Sanga’s focus can be seen too as he has opted out of the IPL and will have ample time to prepare for the challenge in England later this year.
The last time Sri Lanka won a Test series away from home, except Bangladesh and Zimbabwe was in 2000 in Pakistan. There was an ideal opportunity to record a series win against the same opponent away from home this time around. But leading 1-0 in the series, Sri Lanka played negative cricket in the final Test in Sharjah and lost a golden oppiortunity. Sanga didn’t appear to be keen to end the negative play and had he taken a more proactive role helping Mathews to set more aggressive fields, Sri Lanka could have won that series.
Whenever Sri Lanka has won overseas, Sanga’s contributions have been vital. He set up the win in Wellington in 2006 with a thrilling hundred while he contributed with half-centuries in West Indies (2008) and England (2006) when Sri Lanka won Tests. But the series were drawn on both occasions.
Country’s cricketers need to give up their negative attitude displayed during recent times that has brought the team disastrous results both in crucial Tests and ICC events. A person of the caliber of Sanga can do a lot to help the team play positively and stay focused.