Sangakkara's Timing Deserts Him On Pitch But Not Off The Field

19/03/2015 10:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara waves to the crowd as he leaves the field after his teams nine wicket loss to South Africa in their Cricket World Cup quarterfinal match in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, March 18, 2015.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

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By G Rajaraman


His timing, so sublime through the ICC Cricket World Cup, deserted him at the crease in the quarterfinal against South Africa on Wednesday but Kumar Sangakkara did admirably to stick to his decision to quit the ODI game. "I feel that the time is now and it's right and the World Cup with a four-year wait in between is the right occasion to do it," he said.

The Sri Lankan legend said he would be more than happy if anyone said they had enjoyed playing against or with him. There would be more than a handful who will say that of him. For 15 years since moving from studying law to the dressing room in Galle, Sangakkara has been one of their pillars. He made 14234 runs in 404 ODIs, with 25 centuries and 93 half-centuries.

He would have loved to end his career in a blaze a World Cup victory on March 29 but he could only helplessly and disappointedly watch his fellow batsmen succumb to pressure on the big stage. "Today, I was frustrated that I not able to time the ball well. And when I did, I could not pierce the field," he said. Surely, that was the only timing that he got wrong on Wednesday.

About his decision to quit ODIs after scoring a record four World Cup centuries in-a-row, he said retiring from cricket was not about form. "To me, personally, it never is. I'm sure I can play maybe a year or two more, but it's time and place," he said.

"I'm pretty happy with the decision I've made. I've tried to give everything I have when I've played the game, and you know, the game goes on. You can't hold onto it and people shouldn't be too sentimental. I love the support that they've given me over the years, and I've become a lot better person and a player because of that support and love.

"Yet, at the end of the day, I think a lot better players and greater players have gone, and the game has gone on and there are new players who take the mantle, and in my case it won't be any different," Sangakkara said, drawing satisfaction from the awareness that his friend Mahela Jayawardena and he are leaving Sri Lanka cricket in a healthier state than before.

"Sri Lankan cricket has progressed leaps and bounds from where we started and from where I started, and I have no fear about the future of Sri Lankan cricket,"

"I definitely think so. I think if you take some of the younger players, if I can compare myself to them at the same age, I think these guys are quite way ahead of where I was, and that's quite exciting when you really look at it because that means they've got so much more left to learn and a lot more to give to Sri Lanka," he said, glancing at his ODI career.

"There's no secret to playing good cricket. It's making the best use of your talent, working as hard as you can in the nets, and then making the right decisions out in the middle. I definitely think Sri Lankan cricket has progressed leaps and bounds from where we started and from where I started, and I have no fear about the future of Sri Lankan cricket," he said.

Talking about Jayawardene, the other titan who had turned out in a Sri Lanka shirt for the last time, Sangakkara said it had been a great privilege playing with him. "He's been, along with Aravinda de Silva, an exceptional player for Sri Lanka. He's made a hundred in a lot of victories, and he's given a lot on and off the field to the country. He's going to be sorely missed."

Jayawardena could look back and really appreciate what he's been given by the country and what he's given it, he said. "There is a bit of relief when your career ends. The high-pressure situations, the warm-ups, the ice baths, the recovery sessions, all of that, all repeated over 16, 17 years can get a bit much. Time to look at other things and other aspects of life," he said.

As he answered the final questions at the media interaction in Sinhalese on Wednesday night, Sangakkara sounded calm and, almost sagely. It is this serenity that makes many believe that when he does hang his boots finally after a season of Test cricket and two seasons with Surrey in English county cricket Sangakkara will probably be persuaded to extend his association with Sri Lanka Cricket. It would be a travesty if his knowledge and wisdom is not used for the betterment of cricket in the Emerald Island.


Top Run Scorers At ICC World Cup 2015

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