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Sanga gears up for last hurrah

Star batsman to end T-20 International career



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by Rex Clementine


Star batsman Kumar Sangakkara has featured in all five World T-20 tournaments so far, and in an exclusive interview with Sunday Island declared that the event that gets underway in Bangladesh today will be his last T-20 tournament. The former captain also says that he will retire from Twenty-20 Internationals and that he will take a call on his ODI career after next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.


In this interview, Sangakkara elaborates on the team’s chances and his own game that hit a purple patch a few weeks ago. He also speaks of his admiration of Angelo Mathews, who emerged as a leader and a reliable batsman during the Asia Cup.


Here are the excerpts.


Question: When you look at the tournament draw, it is clear that Sri Lanka is in a relatively easy group, alongside South Africa, New Zealand, England and one of the qualifiers whereas the other group has West Indies, India, Pakistan and Australia along with a qualifier. How big an event is this and would you admit that Sri Lanka is in a weaker group?


Sangakkara: This is definitely a big event for the nation and the team. We play the shorter format very well. It is wrong to say that we are in an easy group. England play good T-20 cricket. South Africa is a top side in all three formats of the game. New Zealand look a very solid side too and they did well recently, although it was in their own conditions. I feel it’s a tough group. Our spin could be a key factor and the way we play shorter formats give us an advantage. We have an advantage but it could be tough. We are competing against good teams.


Question: You have got the momentum though. Sri Lanka were in Bangladesh for two months prior to the World T-20 and the confidence is high after a convincing win in the Asia Cup.


Sangakkara: The momentum will be there no doubt. I feel the first practice game will be very important going into the main part of the tournament. We have to be on top of our game and carry on that momentum with a good show in the warm-up game into the competition. Knowing the conditions can be an advantage as well. Hopefully, the dew won’t be a factor. You never know. The dew was a factor when we played Bangladesh recently.


Question: In two previous World T-20 tournaments in 2009 and 2012, you had everything going for you. Sri Lanka entered the finals with unbeaten records in both tournaments, but came second best in the final. What happened in those two finals?


Sangakkara: We just played badly. We had a fine opportunity in 2009. They were using the same track for the final that had been used for the ladies final that was played just before. We won the toss and it was a beautiful wicket to bat on. We were 64 for five and ended up making 138. If we had got to 150, we would have won. In the 2012 final, we could have restricted the West Indies to 110 or so. But we gave away too many runs towards the end and it was a tough wicket to chase. I don’t think we played to our capabilities. The Pakistan side was a good side against spin and we played well in the semi-final against them. We knew going into the final that anything over 140 was going to be tough. You may go into a final with an unbeaten record, but unfortunately, you can be beaten and that’s the reality.


Question: Is this going to be your last World T-20?


Sangakkara: Ya, definitely without doubt this is my last World T-20. I won’t be playing any T-20 Internationals after this. It’s sad, but that’s the truth. It’s not the end of my T-20 career though. I would like to play franchise based T-20s. Once your World Cup prospects are over you should give the next crop of players an opportunity. It’s a natural progression.


Question: Will you end your ODI career as well, after next year’s World Cup?


Sangakkara: Hopefully I will be in form and my fitness stays and I am looking forward to it. There are so many ifs and buts in cricket. The 2015 World Cup is my immediate target. I will have a chat with the selectors to see where the future lies.


Question: Angelo Mathews was impressive during the Asia Cup as captain and with his solid batting in the middle order. He came into the side when you were captain and how satisfying is it to see him grow up to be the player he is today?


Sangakkara: I was extremely impressed with his captaincy both on and off the field. As a batsman, he had a telling impact from the Pakistan tour onwards. I knew he could do that. I had full confidence in him. He stepped up to the responsibility in Bangladesh. He remained not out in four of the five games in the Asia Cup and played match winning roles in most of those games. He will be like a Graeme Smith figure, captaining the country for a long period. Probably longer than Smith. He will not only be an exceptional leader, but an exceptional cricketer as well. I was very proud to have Angelo as my captain.


Question: However, in that Sharjah game early this year, he was too negative and you lost a game that you should have never lost. What went wrong there?


Sangakkara:


We should have batted for a bit longer in Sharjah. We thought the match was beyond Pakistan’s reach when there were 50 overs left. We didn’t expect that kind of a chase. We may have made a few miscalculations there. It was a very tough position to be in as a captain to understand how to go about on a wicket that was not offering any assistance to the bowlers and against a side that was desperate to make it 1-1. We didn’t bowl as well as we should have. A few fielders were in the perhaps wrong positions as well. It was a great and a harsh lesson learned and something the boys will never forget. But that’s the nature of cricket. Misbah and Azhar Ali batted extremely well to take the game away from us.


Question: You seem to be keep improving in all three formats of the game. You average is 58 in Tests and it is more than 40 in ODIs. Not many players can boast of such numbers.


Sangakkara: That’s the whole purpose of playing. When you reach a goal you lift that goal and try to achieve something new. Whether you are young or older, the motivation has to be there. The day that motivation goes and you are just trying to hold on to your place in the side, that’s the time that you have to decide that the time is right to go. When you play for a team, the main thing is to win. If you can do it there is a huge feeling of satisfaction. Those are the things that really motivates me. I don’t think you reach a peak.


Question: Your Test average (58:07) is better than that of your childhood heros. Sir Viv Richards only averaged 50:23 in Tests.


Sangakkara: The average is better, but not the batting. Sir Viv and Brian Lara are never to be surmounted or imitated. It was great to play against Brian and watch him batting for hours and hours. Talking to Sir Viv on cricket is awesome and I look forward to the opportunity whenever I see him.


Question: You made your first triple hundred last month (319 against Bangladesh). Now that’s your career best Test score. The previous career best was against South Africa (287). Would it have been nicer to have the career best score against Proteas than Bangladesh?


Sangakkara: It is funny. You want to play against better sides. Unfortunately, we don’t play South Africa, England or Australia on a regular basis home and away. I would love to play a series every year. That makes you enthusiastic and motivates you to take up challenges. But we don’t play them often. That s the way it is. If you are a player worth your salt, you will score against any side. Once you out go to bat, you need to score runs. The scarcity of players behind those statistics proves that cricket is not an easy game.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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