Making a statement
Posted in ICC World Twenty20
There was a time when you could largely ignore anything that fell from Kumar Sangakkara’s mouth.
The Sri Lanka wicketkeeper-batsman had a reputation for being a ferocious sledger. Just ask Shaun Pollock, who was famously on the receiving end of a verbal barrage during the 2003 World Cup.
With South Africa’s hopes of progressing in the balance, Pollock, perhaps taking the bait, was eventually run out and the hosts were eliminated.
Two years earlier the normally placid Michael Atherton, then England captain, admitted he "lost it for four overs" after being riled by Sangakkara’s razor sharp tongue.
Fast forward to 2009. Life is different and so is Sangakkara.
Last Sunday every captain bar Ricky Ponting gave a press conference at Lord’s – the Australia skipper held his separately at Trent Bridge 48 hours early.
Despite Younus Khan’s best efforts to steal the show, by far and away the most illuminating was Sangakkara, who was appointed Sri Lanka captain in March.
The assembled journalists, there to preview the forthcoming World Twenty20 in England, were not interested in asking Sangakkara about his hopes for the tournament but rather to find out how he was coping since being involved in the terrorist attacks in Lahore.
Three months ago the Sri Lanka team bus was sprayed with bullets and grenades as they travelled to the Gadaffi Stadium for the second Test with Pakistan. Sangakkara was one of a handful of players injured in the terrible incident which also saw eight Pakistanis killed.
His country was further thrown into chaos recently with the conclusion of a bloody civil war that raged for 26 years.
Sangakkara spoke candidly about both episodes, insisting "life goes on" and that his country had a wonderful opportunity to move forward.
Cricket, he said, could play a part, particularly for him and his team-mates who can use the sport as a return to normal life. He said that something as trivial as getting on the team bus had taken on a new significance.
Whether the terrorist attack or the war have allowed Sangakkara to mellow out is hard to tell. Perhaps it could be age – he is now 31 – or the responsibility of being captain.
In an aside to Sunday’s enlightening press conference, Sangakkara revealed another dimension after helping Sri Lanka to a narrow win over Bangladesh on Tuesday at Trent Bridge, when his glovework was a particular highlight.
Freshly showered, Sangakkara abstained from the traditional team tracksuit and sponsor’s cap for the post-match presser in favour of jeans and a bright white t-shirt with the slogan ‘Reduce Your Carbon Footprint’ emblazoned across the front.
Few would begrudge Sangakkarra lifting the trophy at Lord’s on June 21.