Colombo: As Sri Lankan cricket’s greatest ambassador Kumar Sangakkara prepares to bow out, he termed his decade and a half in the game as a “great one” with the biggest regret being not able to win the ICC ODI World Cup despite being a part of two summit clashes.
“I would have loved to win a 50-over World Cup. We had two chances but we didn’t convert them. It would have been great had we won a Test series in India as well. So there are things that could have been but I think that’s the way the game goes,” Sangakkara, one of the most articulate man to have graced the cricket field, told reporters during his farewell press conference.
Sangakkara said that there are regrets but he would not lose his sleep over them.(Jayawardene All Praise for Sangakkara)
“There are regrets but not regrets that I will be thinking about for years and years, and be bitter about. I have had a great career. I have enjoyed everything – the wins and the losses. The bad times and the good times, everything has been a great experience,” said the player, who has close to 28,000 international runs with 63 hundreds.
“It would have been nice to win a few more Test matches away from home, especially in Australia. And I remember going to England with the team last year and beating England 1-0 in that series. It was the best overseas tour I have been on.”
He also recalled Sri Lanka’s 2006 tour of England.
“In 2006, we drew 1-1 and won the one-day series 5-0 in England. That was a great tour,” he added.
When asked as to why he would not be playing all the three Tests against India, Sangakkara said that he had already discussed the issue with the country’s cricket bosses and the arrangement was to play two Tests before retiring after he was persuaded to continue at the completion of 2015 World Cup.
“The reason for the two and two Tests split (between Pakistan and India series), even though it is not ideal, was the agreement I had with the previous selection committee when I was discussing my future,” Sangakkara revealed.
“I had plans to retire immediately after the World Cup but they wanted me to try and play a bit more Test cricket. This was all I could offer them and I said as long as they were okay and the board is okay with that, I will be willing to play four more Test matches.
“They were okay with that and I said if they were not, tell me that that would be fine and I can then retire after the World Cup. That’s why it’s a two and two split.”
While he spoke about good and bad phases of his career, he also mentioned the scary incident — the life threatening terror attack on Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009.
“It was one of the scariest times for us for sure. But I think again it was an experience especially for the Sri Lankan team. It is hard to say whether it was timely or anything. It kind of again put things in perspective. We have been through a raging conflict and we were untouched directly by the war.
“And then we go to play cricket, which should be the safest environment for us and we get attacked. We had injuries and when I saw Thilan Samaraweera come back a month and a half later and score a Test hundred, after being shot in the leg and running the risk of not being able to play again, or maybe even die. That really brought home to us that being in a situation like that it is scary but the real point is to come out of it and come out of it strong,” Sangakkara recounted.
Asked if he professed international cricket returning to Pakistan on a regular basis, the veteran said: “I think the Pakistani people are wonderful cricket fans. They have always been and have welcomed us with open arms. They love the way we play and they support Sri Lanka very, very strongly. For the Pakistan cricket team, to see that talent and ability and not have them being able to play in their own country is sad.”
“But that is not for me to say it is safe or unsafe, it is a matter for the home board, it is a matter for the security arms that are concerned, it is for individual countries to decide, players to take the decision themselves. Sports hopefully will remain untouched by violence.”
Sangakkara thanked his friends and family for the support.
“I’ve been blessed to have a great support structure at home, with parents, wife, children and friends. My friends, who I’ve known for the last 26 years, they understand who I really am. Beyond this, I don’t know what I will do. I’ll be playing couple of more years of cricket and then find a real job,” he added, with a chuckle.
Sangakkara, who made his Test debut in 2000 here at the Galle, termed it as a “happy hunting ground”.
“I think Galle has been a favourite ground for all of us. One of Muttiah Muralitharan’s favourite hunting grounds as we have always managed to win a lot of Test matches here.
“It’s my favourite Test ground in the world. I think as players we love coming here because we know the conditions, we have always backed ourselves here and we are taken care of extremely well by all ground authorities,” said Sangakkara.
“All the boys come here looking forward to a really good Test match, weather permitting and it’s always got crowds coming in. It’s a great backdrop to play against. All these factors contribute immensely to the feeling that you have when you walk out to play. It’s going to be a very special ground not just for me but also for a lot of players, both visiting and local,” he added.
Talking about his team’s rivalry with India over the years, the ace batsman said, “It has been a great rivalry. It has been a tussle between some great players. When you are facing a side that has a batting line-up — Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly — you know you are in for a very, very tough time. And then you have Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan who to me are one of the most difficult bowlers I have ever faced. It’s an exceptional feeling going in and playing against greats.
“Meanwhile, we have had Murali, Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Marvan Atapattu, Chaminda Vaas and Mahela Jayawardena. I think when you look at Test series around the world, there is one iconic series in the Ashes and I think maybe if we can develop a context and a meaningful rivalry and trophy for maybe a Test series in that vein for Asia as well, that will be a great step forward.
“The rivalry (with India) has been great; it has been tough cricket and I think both sides have come through tough times. Hopefully this series will be similar,” he added.
Sangakkara said everyone remembers you differently.
“To be remembered, I think everyone remembers you differently,” he said.
“When you play, you see yourself in one way, when you retire, you see yourself as slightly better than what you actually were. That’s the way cricketers are. But I just want to be remembered as just who I was, how I played and how I interacted with the team in the dressing room.
“The experiences we have shared together, the wins, the losses, everything. The standout moments have been a lot. The way we performed as a unit in big tournaments, that’s been the one thing that we can be very, very proud of,” he said a touch philosophically.
Sangakkara said that he has played with a different sets of cricketers and it has been an enriching experience.
“We can go into a big tournament with a really bad track record going in and really surprise teams and sometimes even surprise ourselves by how well we play in World Cups. And personally, all the wins we have had, especially away from home, beating Australia for the first time in a one-day series in 2010, T20 World Cup when we won it, all of these have been really standout moments for me.
“But once Sanath, Marvan, Vaas, Aravinda, all of these guys left, to be a part of a set-up that produced cricketers like Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga, Upul Tharanga and the one guy who has been outstanding and who is never spoken about is, Rangana Herath. He has been an incredible servant of Sri Lankan cricket. To be part of a set-up that has produced cricketers like this, I am very pleased,” said the former Lankan skipper.