Kumar Sangakkara, who will retire from One-Day Internationals after the end of the 2015 World Cup under way in Australia and New Zealand, has said the home Test series against Pakistan and India ending in August will be his last international commitments.
Pakistan and India are due to play three Tests each in Sri Lanka between June and August, in what is likely to be Sangakkara’s farewell series. “There are Test matches in June and July, and I will be done by the end of August,” said Sangakkara, who with 12,203 runs in 130 Tests is fifth behind Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid in the list of highest run-getters in the format. “A series or two in June and in August and that’s it,” he told The Nation on Saturday (March 7).
He will travel to England between the two series to honour his commitment with Surrey, with whom he has signed a two-year contract, in the English County Championship.
Sangakkara, 37, who has scored over 1000 ODI runs in each of the last four calendar years, has been in excellent form in the World Cup, becoming the first batsman to score three back-to-back centuries in the competition’s history – against Bangladesh, England and Australia in the league stages. Against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday, he became only the second batsman after Tendulkar to score 14,000 ODI runs. He, however, played down his significance in Sri Lanka’s fortunes in the tournament.
“I don’t know whether I am [at the] top of my game. I just bat according to situations,” he said. “During the New Zealand tour (prior to the World Cup), it was the same thing. I didn’t have a good start in the first ODI, but from the second onwards, it was just a case of building on runs.”
After Sri Lanka lost to New Zealand in the tournament opener, the team has regrouped well, and Sangakkara credited this to the unit’s ability to play as a team and stay close to each other.
“Jelling of teams in Sri Lanka has never been an issue. We always had very good sides, very good camaraderie in teams and every time we faced tough situations the team’s always been together,” he pointed it out. “I don’t think there is anything different this time or compared to any other time and the teams and the players have always shown that they always played as one.”
Questions of who would fill the vacuum after the departure of Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, for whom the World Cup is the last assignment, has gathered steam in the recent past, but Sangakkara felt that the future was in good hands.
He heaped praise on Lahiru Thirimanne, who also made a hundred against England and shared an unbroken stand of 212 runs with Sangakkara for the second wicket in a successful chase of 310.
“He batted beautifully and fought through some situations. He’s done a lot of hard work for the team and seems to be very impressive,” said Sangakkara. “I think he can only get better and that’s really exciting for us. He is definitely much better than I was at the same stage of my career.”
Sangakkara was also hopeful of Dinesh Chandimal making good of opportunities in the future, and hoped that the new generation cricketers would get a long rope.
“Sometimes young players don’t need as much help as people think they do,” he added. “They need a little bit of freedom, a bit of love, a bit of care and they will perform very well.”