Sa’adi Thawfeeq, in The Nation, 8 March 2015
The great Kumar Sangakkara, easily the best batsman/wicket-keeper produced by Sri Lanka, has finally decided to end his glorious international cricket career in August. Sangakkara is due to retire from one-day international cricket at the end of the ongoing cricket World Cup along with his long time buddy Mahela Jayawardene, but had left a window open in Test cricket allowing for plenty of chitchat amongst cricket fans about his final retirement. “There are Test matches in June and July and I will be done by the end of August. A series or two in June and in August and that’s it,” Sangakkara told The Nation.
What does the future hold for him? “Nothing really, play a little bit more cricket and wind down slowly and see what’s there after I retire.” Sangakkara will be shuttling between Colombo and London during the two Test series as he has signed a two-year contract to play for county Surrey during the English season where he will renew ties with South African Graham Ford, the former Sri Lanka coach. Ford is currently the coach of Surrey.
Sangakkara has been in prime form in the ongoing World Cup. After being dismissed for 39 and 7 in the first two matches he scored back to back unbeaten hundreds against Bangladesh and England and looks to finish his final ODI appearance on a high.
“I don’t know whether I am top of my game I just bat according to situations,” said Sangakkara rather modestly. “During the New Zealand tour it was the same thing I didn’t have a good start in the first ODI but from the second onwards it was just a case of building on runs.”
TEAM JELLING: On the team’s performance so far in the World Cup, Sangakkara said, “It has gone pretty well upto now. Again a slow start a bit shaky against Afghanistan but pretty good in the last two games it’s just a case of trying to ensure that we put up a good performance every time we go out and keep improving.
“Jelling of teams in Sri Lanka has never been an issue. We always had very good sides, very good camaraderie in teams and every time we faced tough situations the teams always been together. I don’t think there is anything different this time or compared to any other time and the teams and the players have always shown that they always played as one,” he said.
Sangakkara and Jayawardene, both past captains have been the stalwarts of the Lankan batting for the past 15 years and their departure is certainly a massive void to fill. It was the same when Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga decided to call it quits at the turn of 2000. Their shoes were filled quite competently by Jayawardene and Sangakkara who will be leaving a number of batting and catching records in their wake.
THIRIMANNE AND CHANDIMAL: The players earmarked to step into their shoes are Lahiru Thirimanne, a left-hander like Sangakkara and Dinesh Chandimal, both members of the Sri Lanka World Cup squad. Thirimanne really came good in the game against England where he scored a career best 139 not out figuring in a double century stand with Sangakkara.
“He batted beautifully and fought through some tough situations. He’s done a lot of hard work for the team and seems to be very impressive,” said Sangakkara complimenting Thirimanne on his performance. “Thiri is much better than where I was when I was his age, I think he can only get better and that’s really exciting for us. He is definitely much better than I was at the same stage of my career.”
In ODIs that is because Sangakkara at 25 years had scored 1475 runs (avg. 25.87) in 70 matches and made eight fifties in comparison to Thirimanne’s present ODI record which reads an impressive 2127 runs (avg. 34.30) from 91 matches with four centuries and 12 fifties.
In Chandimal’s case it has been lack of opportunities that has proved a setback to his career.
“Unfortunately he’s not had some good outings here. He batted really well in the last two games against England in Sri Lanka, came here and unfortunately was not in the side for the first 3-4 New Zealand games. Since then it’s been a tough come back for him,” said Sangakkara. “He’s batting well he is a great player really positive. He’s got everything to make him a really good player for Sri Lanka I hope he keeps getting the opportunity and when he does, keeps doing what’s required of him.
“Technique or anything else it’s about scoring runs. Chandi has shown he has the ability to score runs especially against good attacks. Coming in the second Test at Wellington and batting at 85-5 and getting 70 odd was another tough knock under pressure. He has the ability to do that, he just needs be free and happy and keep getting opportunities.”
BEST ADVICE — What sort of advice can a player of Sangakkara’s experience and stature pass onto younger players like Thirimanne and Chandimal? “It’s a bit archaic to think that senior players have so much to give and everything to give back,” said Sangakkara. “You play your best cricket for your country and do the best for your side and sometimes young players don’t need as much help as people think they do. They need a little bit of freedom, a bit of love, a bit of care and they’ll perform very well.
“Whatever they need to learn most of them will ask and learn or watch and learn, they’ll have a chat with you but whatever you have to offer would not be of benefit to a younger player maybe they need something else, maybe they are good enough and their perspectives are better than yours. Learning is a two-way street, you learn from them as well as young players learning from you.
“The best thing as a senior cricketer you can do is to hold your place in the side and pull your own weight and score runs if you’re a batsman and if you are a bowler do the job that’s required of you. That’s the best way you can help the team or any youngster. As long as you are there and you are doing something useful they’ll benefit,” he said.
The best advice this elegant left-hander received in his career was from his father. “He’s been coaching me day in and day out. He’s always told me don’t be afraid of change and that I think is the best thing that I’ve been told and that’s what I’ve been doing throughout my career, change when change was required. I tried to improve and it has been the background to my success.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando: “Sanga rules the North,” http://www.espncricinfo.com/srilanka/content/story/685443.html
Andrew Fidel Fernando: “Like a Kandyan Dancer,” http://www.espncricinfo.com/sri-lanka-v-england-2014-15/content/story/809191.html
Michael Roberts: “Sangakkaras visit St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna,” 12 April 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/sangakkaras-visit-st-patricks-college-jaffna/
Michael Roberts: “Kumar Sangakkara’s Ecumenical Lankan Nationalism,” 9 July 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/kumar-sangakkara%e2%80%99s-ecumenical-lankan-nationalism/
Thuppahi: “Murali Harmony Cup serves the Northern Province and deploys Cricket in the Work of Reconciliation,” 8 September 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/6956/
Thuppahi: “Kumar and Mahela … Cricket and Reconciliation… Northern Empowerment … via Alison’s Tea Break,” 12 October 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/kumar-and-mahela-cricket-and-reconciliation-northern-empowerment-via-alisons-tea-break/
Thuppahi: “Unity Team” sponsored by Emirates to play cricket in Singapore and promote FOG’s work of reconciliation,” 16 October 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/yunity-team-sponsored-by-emirates-to-play-cricket-in-singapore-and-promote-fogs-work-of-reconciliation/