We have a debt to pay to our fans, Sangakkara says

Sri Lankan hero loves the IPL but feels country comes first

00:06 May 8, 2012
Kumar Sangakkara

Dubai: It's not for nothing that Kumar Sangakkara is often regarded as one of the best ambassadors of contemporary cricket. While he and Mahela Jayawardene have been two of the pillars around which the Sri Lankan batting has revolved over the last decade, the wicketkeeper-batsman's eloquence in holding forth on the game as well as its administration and world view has earned him many admirers.

A qualified lawyer, Sanga's tirade against corrupt practices inside his own country's board in the MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture at Lord's last year became a raging talking point in the game's fraternity for some time. The same speech also saw him speaking about how cricket has been acting as a conciliatory force in Sri Lanka, a country ravaged by civil war over 30 years.

The 34-year-old's star value has made him a constant feature of all the editions of IPL so far, with him playing for Kings XI for the first three years (being the captain in 2010) before switching to Deccan Chargers last season.

As captain of the beleagured Chargers, now languishing at the bottom of the table in IPL V, he is disappointed with their performance, but promises that the team will continue to fight for "personal pride" as well as that of the franchise.

Taking time out from the hectic IPL schedule, Sangakkara spoke to Gulf News on a wide range of issues in this phone interview. Following are the excerpts:

GULF NEWS: While there is no realistic chance of making the play-offs in the IPL, there is however no denying some strong individual performances by your team members…

Kumar Sangakkara: Yes, there has been quite a lot of brilliant individual performances, but where we have lacked was was fielding, especially in tough situations. Young Sikhar Dhawan has been magnificent for us this season and should be playing for India in near future. (Cameron) White batted excellently against Pune while Parthiv Patel had given us some good starts.

Ankit Sharma has bowled some tidy spells. He also came along nicely and of course, no praise is big enough for Dale Steyn.

All you can really ask from your players is to give it their all and I have had no complaints on this score. Unfortunately, we made some crucial mistakes and have to learn from them. As things stand, we now have to play for individual pride as well of the franchise.

Do you think it's been possibly the most open IPL you have ever played in?

It's been a very good year for the competition as there are no clear favourites. Delhi Daredevils are at the top alone, while the rest of the pack are very close to each other.

In a recent interview, Arjuna Ranatunga said thanks to the IPL, Indian cricket will now produce ‘butchers' and not greats like Gavaskar or Tendulkar?

The IPL by itself is a great tournament, it's quite a spectacle. It has given cricket a shot in the arm apart from opening up the market for the game. You cannot fault it ... but the only issue is that players, coaches involved in it must be responsible for their views on Test cricket as any player of this generation has to be nurtured through Test cricket first and not the other way round.

The IPL is an opportunity for Indian players to be able to play with the best in the world and learn from them. These players, however, have to be very smart about it — they need to look at the overseas cricketers and how they balance it and realise the importance of technique to be able to play in all forms of the game.

Coaches and teams in India have a great responsibility to remind their players that in order to remembered as good cricketers, one has to perform in Test cricket and not the other way round. Who knows how long everything lasts, so for anyone worth their salt should aspire to play Test cricket.

Point taken, but some of the shotmaking seen in IPL V so far has nothing to do with cricket grammer and quite incredible. How would you expect an youngster to choose the right balance?

See, the right path is when you are playing longer version of the game, these shots are obviously not part of your repertoire. These strokes are played out of necessity when you are chasing a very high number of runs, but what enables us to execute them is that we are secure in our technical base. Look at someone like Ajinkiya Rahane, he is a brilliant example of a combination of good cricket strokes, solid technique and still amazingly successful in T20 cricket. Sometimes, you get carried away by players who hit the ball extremely hard, but at the end of the day, a beautiful cover drive or straight drive is always better to watch than an out-and-out slog.

Sri Lankan cricket had been engulfed in financial crisis for a fairly a long period now. Has it ever occurred to someone like you, who has achieved it all in international cricket, to do a Chris Gayle ?

No, it never crosses my mind. If you are ever in the Sri Lankan dressing room, you will realise what I am trying to say ... there is a tremendous hunger to win. Sri Lankan cricketers are extremely grounded in their cricketing values, they have very good priorities when it comes to cricket.

Whatever difficulties we face off the ground [like not getting paid], but on it, we play together, we play for Sri Lanka ... we may be contracted players of the board, but at the end of the day, we are playing for the country. You have a huge debt to pay to your fans, without them we would not have been there.

Finally, what do you feel about Sri Lanka's chances in the T-20 World Cup, scheduled at home later this year?

Chances are very good for we are playing at home. The grounds are bigger than in India, so the players have to be stronger and fitter in running between the wickets and fielding. I think we have got a very good chance.