This is the last time - Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara admits it took “a lot of deep thought” before he committed to captaining Sri Lanka in the final npower Test at the Rose Bowl.
Sangakkara will lead the tourists against England tomorrow, barely two months after he resigned in the wake of World Cup final defeat in India.
Tillakaratne Dilshan’s fractured thumb saw him take the reins during the Lord’s Test, and, despite considerable reservations, Sangakkara was persuaded to assume control one more time. He insists it will be the last.
“I stepped down and thought I was done with it, but I was clearly wrong. I’m back one last time,” he said.
“When I was first approached to captain the side I wasn’t ready to take it on, because the fact was I had given it up. I asked for time to really think it over, to consider my options.
“Unfortunately, there was no vice-captain appointed for this Test series, so the side was left with a bit of a problem with no-one to step in to captain.
“So with a lot of deep thought and considering the needs of the side and Sri Lanka, I decided to say ‘yes’ to captaining Sri Lanka again for a final time in this Test.”
Sangakkara’s much-publicised reticence (imagine the opprobrium that would be heaped on an England player if he admitted as much) stems from the demands of a job that extends far beyond the cricket field: political interference is far from uncommon and the team is under the ultimate control of the government.
Although Sangakkara captained Sri Lanka to the final of the 2009 World Twenty20 and this year’s World Cup – “huge achievements for the country”, he claims – the job took its toll during his two-year reign.
He revealed: “Looking from outside in, it’s sometimes difficult to fathom why a decision like that could be made, but once you’re in the team, and in that environment...
“Captaining Sri Lanka is a job that ages you very quickly. It’s rarely a job you will last long in.
“Mahela (Jayawardene) was a fantastic captain for us for two years, and he also resigned. I also had a two-year stint, and I enjoyed it at times.”
Despite his reservations, Sangakkara promised to “get on with the job” tomorrow as they chase a series-levelling victory in the first Test to be held at the Rose Bowl.
“Once you say ‘yes’ it means ‘yes’, so then you do what you have to do on the field and lead the side to the best of your ability,” he said.
“It’s a case of regrouping and making sure I’m transparent and clear with my communications with my team-mates – also, that they are forthright and honest with me.
“It’s a case of sitting down and seeing what options are available as a team: going out to face England tomorrow, what we’d like to achieve in this Test match, and how we’d like to achieve it.”
As if the unwanted captaincy burden was not sufficiently taxing, Sangakkara must also cope without Dilshan at the top of the order, not to mention his own batting woes.
Dilshan is Sri Lanka’s leading scorer in the series with 254 runs, yet Sangakkara has managed just 63 in four innings.
While it extends his disappointing record in England – he averages 26.60 and boasts a highest score of 66 in eight Tests – he can draw comfort from his consistent excellence over a 96-Test career that has seen him score 8,207 runs at 56.12.
“I failed (in) four consecutive innings after about six years, so it’s something I have to take in my stride,” he said. “It could happen to anyone so it’s not really a worry to me.”
Of Dilshan, he added: “He is a significant loss in both capacities, as an opening batsman and captain.
“He’s been the one batsman who’s stood out among us, even in the tour games, and it would have been great for him to be available to finish the series on a high. We have to fill the void.”