Posts Tagged ‘Kumar Sangakkara’

Goutham Chakravarthi

17th September 2012


Nearly four years have passed since I last visited this glittering island. The lack of multiple security checks at military checkpoints, a facet that seemed a norm back then, immediately stands out. One thing that hasn’t change is the warmth of the locals and the smiles on their faces.


A cyclist rides past a cut out of Sri Lankan players in the capital Colombo. © AFP

A cyclist rides past a cut out of Sri Lankan players in the capital Colombo. © AFPFrom the airport to the beachside restaurants in the south of Sri Lanka, it’s all about the ICC World Twenty20. Seaside resorts are abuzz with cricket fever, and even the cab drivers tell me they are keeping an eye on the weather forecast, praying for the rain gods to show mercy for a month.

“I want West Indies to win and I believe they have a good chance,” Abhishek Bharathkumar, an Indian national and a former age-group captain for Tamil Nadu, who is here in Sri Lanka on vacation with his family, said.

In addition to home favourites Sri Lanka, India and West Indies are also seen as favourites by the locals to win the trophy while Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Shahid Afridi and Lasith Malinga appear to be the fans’ picks for the stars of the tournament.

Sangakkara is extremely popular amongst the locals here, understandably so.

“Kohli is my favourite player from outside of Sri Lanka. But Sangakkara is my favourite though and his three awards only prove that he is among the best in the world,” says Haroon, a shopkeeper at the airport.

Teams, stats, clubs, T20 leagues are all part of routine conversations with cab drivers and at family dinners.

The locals are also excited by the unearthing of unconventional talents Dilshan Munaweera and Akila Dananjaya, and the expectations for them to deliver are high. Sri Lankans are extremely confident the two players discovered at the SLPL have what it takes to succeed; many of them want both players to be included in the playing XI instead of warming the benches at this year’s T20 World Cup. With Sri Lanka known to offer unorthodox talent, the world will wait with equal interest to see if Dananjaya and Munaweera can use this platform to launch their careers similar to how Angelo Mathews did during the 2009 edition of the tournament in England.

The wickets here seem to be no longer inclined to help slow bowlers or batsmen who thrive on slow, low tracks. Well rounded attacks like Pakistan’s are expected to succeed and progress beyond the Super Eight stages.

“Wickets these days offer some nip to even medium pacers. I think Thisara Perera will be the player of the tournament if we go on to win the cup,” says Cathy, who is a waitress at the wonderful beachside restaurant Loon Tao in Mount Lavinia. She believes teams with allrounders who can bowl medium pace are at an advantage.

A large contingent of tourists meanwhile are keen on catching the action at the India-Pakistan warm-up game on Monday. However, the overselling of World Cup tickets still lingers as a prime concern amongst many of them.A large contingent of tourists meanwhile are keen on catching the action at the India-Pakistan warm-up game on Monday. However, the overselling of World Cup tickets still lingers as a prime concern amongst many of them.

“Ticketmaster, who are handling the ticket sales for the ICC, found that in the first few days of sales certain ticket outlets had access to the ‘blocked’ ticket database, and some of those tickets were sold to the public,” cheif executive of the Sri Lankan cricket board Ajit Jayasekara said, explaining the issue to Island Cricketrecently.

“When this computer glitch was noticed, they took remedial steps and offered alternative seating to those few people who had bought tickets from that database. The actual number is minimal and did not have an effect on the overall ticket sales.”

Even with several warm-up matches out of the way, It is hard to pick a favourite to win the tournament. The wickets will certainly have a significant say in outcome of the series, and should the wickets have nip and pace, it will be a very open tournament. Three sub-continental teams made it to the semi-finals of the ODI World Cup played in the sub-continent last year, and it is hard to see others challenge them should the wickets turn out to be slow turners.

Pakistan possess an impressive bowling attack, however, the chasm between sides shrinks to a blur in this format. Teams like Bangladesh can pose a formidable threat; both Pakistan and New Zealand will be wary of them, as they are in the same group.

The mood is festive. The most open WT20 tournament is upon us. Sri Lanka is the place to be right now.

This article was written for Island Cricket and first published there.


 Goutham Chakravarthi

 4 September 2011

On Saturday, Mahela Jayawardene scored his 29th Test hundred to draw level with Donald Bradman. It was a spiteful pitch and runs were hard to come by. It was an innings in a losing cause against a team that no longer is the best going around. Yet, runs against Australia don’t come easy at the best of times. Ricky Ponting turned the ball square on this wicket and Mahela himself would have fancied his chances bowling spin on a wicket that had more turn in it than all the head turns a pretty girl would manage in a lifetime. It was Mahela at his best – playing late, with soft hands and precise footwork and impeccable judgment.

Mahela has drawn level with Bradman on 29 Test hundreds

Often, Aravinda de Silva from the emerald isle is talked up as its best batsman. Sanath Jayasuriya is the darling of the masses in the shorter format. Kumar Sangakkara, a contemporary, is widely regarded as Sri Lanka’s best batsman recently. Even with all the runs Mahela has conjured up wafting his bat like a wizard would his wand, he has churned close to ten thousand Test runs in a remarkable career. He must be the most stylish right-hander in the game even as the world is obsessed with Ian Bell and VVS Laxman.

Often his record at the SSC is held against him. Even otherwise, he would be the modern day giant that he is. He averages over 50 in the 4th innings. They say 20 of his 29 hundreds have come in Sri Lanka. In a career spanning over 14 years he has played only 4 Tests in Australia (1 hundred, ave: 34.25), 4 Tests in New Zealand (1 hundred, ave: 27.71), 4 Tests in West Indies (1 hundred, ave: 42.00), 5 Tests in South Africa (highest: 98, ave: 31.40). In a similar time frame, VVS Laxman has played 11 Tests in Australia, 5 in New Zealand, 10 in South Africa and 16 in West Indies! It is a shame that such a remarkable talent has had to play so less in these countries. Agreed his record isn’t the best there, but he has hardly been a failure. He has Test hundreds in all Test playing countries barring South Africa. He cannot be faulted for not being given more opportunities to better his performances. If scoring hundreds across the world is the barometer for judging batting greatness, he is up there with the best.

The disadvantage of coming from a smaller Test playing nation is the lack of deserved recognition a player should get. If he were an Australian or an Englishman, he would be constantly referred to as a modern day great. Chanderpaul, Mohammed Yousuf and Kallis have suffered the same fate over the years. But more important than the media space and public opinion, it is the respect of fellow players and opposition that counts. No cricketer or sane cricket scribe would have less than the highest regard for Mahela.

Mahela’s all round game makes him truly remarkable. He reinvented himself as a limited overs player after pushing himself to open the innings in T20 cricket. He is a player in the classical mould, but he has come to the realization that he can now paint modern art too. There is as much colour in his cover drive as there is in his imagination that can pull out a scoop to a fast bowler. He is the writer who has not only mastered long hand writing but someone who can tell an epic in a tweet. He has got it all. He is the master who not only knows all the tunes, but knows when to play them. He is Sri Lanka’s finest batsman. He’s done it with tremendous grace and dignity.