By Sumaiya Rizvi
Sri Lanka Cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara, in an interview with Daily Mirror online’s ‘Hot Seat Live’ spoke on Murali’s retirement from Test cricket, about Vaas and Sri Lanka cricket. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Were you expecting Muttiah Muralidaran’s retirement from Test cricket?
It was expected because Murali has been talking about retirement since the Indian tour last year and even before that. He wanted to retire but he thought he’d play another year but again now during the test series with India he’s expressed his intent to quit during the test series with India. He’s had an amazing career, he’s the best bowler that the world has ever seen and he’s achieved things that no cricketer can ever achieve or even dream of. So he’s retiring on an absolute high and we have to respect his decision. We will miss him greatly. He’s been such a wonderful part in my cricketing career and I have played ten years with him and been very fortunate to do that.
Does it come as a surprise to you that Muralidaran is considering retirement from Test cricket?
He has been open with his communication and his feelings. He has been talking about it for a while. He is one person who had the best interest of Sri Lankan cricket at heart. Three days ago the selectors, Murali and I met to discuss about the world cup. We told him that we were looking at him in our preparation to the world cup in the next six months. He doesn’t have to play all the games but select the tours that he wants to play. He was keen on that and willing to do the job for us. I think he’s retire from test cricket and play one day cricket for awhile.
Caller: Thilina Kadamby has been getting so many chances and since Murali is also leaving. When will consistent performers like Jeevan Mendis get a fair chance to perform for Sri Lanka at the World Cup since he is an all-rounder?
That is the question we keep asking ourselves for some time. Not only with regard to Thilina Kadamby. But he has been consistent since he bats at number six or seven they are usually the first people to be dropped form the side in trying situations it was the same when Russell Arnold was playing and the stats don’t back the players at that point. Jeevan Mendis was a huge talent when he played for St. Thomas’ I remember him scoring a hundred in the Big match unfortunately for him he took a long time to mature through first class cricket structure. I think in the last year Jeevan has come into his own and he has been scoring a lot of runs in the A side with the provincials cricket. And we were discussing how we can get him to the national side even for the Asia Cup. Then we discussed with Aravinda and the selector to give him an opportunity against Zimbabwe followed by a tour to Australia to see how he performs on those wickets and he has done well for himself in the A team. The first one dayer he scored 85 and helped Sri Lanka win it. Jeevan’s future is looking bright will have to see whether he’d break into our side and our world cup squad.
Caller: Roshan from Colombo: Why don’t you select Chaminda Vaas at least for the Twenty20 series because he’s been consistent at the English county?
I agree with you on that point. I sent an SMS to Vaasi a few days ago telling him how impressed we were with his county performances and that we have not forgotten him in our world cup plans. So let him play his county season and see how he goes. But Vaasi realistically has a good chance fitting into our world cup side and has played exceptionally for us. He is very experienced but the competition is stiff amongst the fast bowlers specially with the new power plays in play. And he is one player we expect will make it to the final squad for the world cup. We know what Vaasi can do and we need to give a run to see what the other guys can do before we decide on the world cup.
Caller: Rikaz from Bambalapitiya: Why didn’t you play a captain’s innings in the Asia Cup finals against India?
I understand your point. But I try to forget that I’m the captain when I go down to bat since it is undue pressure. My position is at number three and the role of number three is different to carrying through the innings. We had identified specific people to carry the job. Every player wants to bat through the innings and win the match for their side. That is why we play a seven batsman combination and each batsman’s roles are defined and understood based on the situation. Sometimes they succeed, fail or finish games. In the final we dint have anyone finish the game for us.
Caller Surein from Moratuwa: I want to ask you about Chamara Kapugedara whose faces criticism on his batting although he is a brilliant fielder. Don’t you think he deserves a place at the next world cup?
You spot on with that he is a quality player whose got a lot of talent. We will try hard to make sure that talent is converted to consistent performances. We are going to give him a very good run since he is going to be an important player at the world cup. Kapu is a brilliant fielder and can bowl a bit although we have to find the ideal batting spot for him which I think is at number 7. He can be explosive even at the head or tail order of the line up. He has to keep playing his aggressive cricket and we have to trust him.
What do you make of former Australian Prime Minister Howard’s changed view of Murali?
That is a politically loaded question. When he questioned Murali’s legitimacy as a bowler we were all disappointed. It was highly uncalled for. Contrary to scientific view there is no way one could tell with the naked eye or the two dimensional camera to explain a bowler’s arm movement. No other bowler from any other country had to undergo has been scrutinized to this extent. Murali’s is the best bowler in the world and that what I think made him change his mind.
Caller Victor Ratnam from Pitta Kotte: What are the reasons that led to the debacle at the Asia Cup finals? I hope there wasn’t any political interference in the team that played the finals.
Selection was made on merit and a few options available on a few different combinations and decision was made on the final combination based on the wicket. Since the wicket was new the conditions changed during the morning and evening and the movement off the pitch lasted for 20 overs and we struggled under the lights. The match before the finals we played on a used wicket and we were able to handle the movement on the pitch that lasted for eight overs. We lost five wickets for 50 runs and the batting department let us down. It was not a selection matter that spelled our downfall in the finals. We couldn’t finish the tournament with a good batting performance chasing 267 runs.
Did Sri Lanka Cricket oppose Prime Minister Howard’s candidacy as the CEO of the ICC?
Yes they did as many other Asian countries. For the simple reason that Mr. Howard did not have experience in cricketing or cricket administration and his experience was purely political which was not a good precedent to set for the CEO’s position at the ICC.
Caller Raza Ghany from England: When will Sri Lanka get a five or three match tournament with countries like South Africa, Australia and England?
It is something we have been fighting for. This year Sri Lanka has scheduled only five test matches, two with West Indies at the end of the year. Luckily I think there were calls from players like Sachin Tendulkar for test matches and that is how we come to play India in the upcoming series. Unfortunately teams like England, Australia and South Africa we tour them or they visit us every five years. But England has given us a three test series although Australia hasn’t done so. It is a duty of our Board and the ICC to give equal opportunities to the cricketing nations. Planning committees to make sure that everything is fair.
Caller Tashya: What is the Biggest sacrifice and is it worth it?
I’d like to wait and see until I retire. Whether the sacrifice was worth it, In my ten year career My family and extended family have been sidelines in the process. You can say its selfish because I’m looking at only one aspect of cricket. But it’s benefited me and my family. We spend a lot of time touring, traveling and training. Winning a world cup make it a bit more worth it. We’ll have to wait and see.
Caller Krishan from Borella: What is your view of cricketers who join politics?
It is a personal choice. If you want to represent your country in cricket or in any other sport it is a must to be a member with the Sports Ministry. Since the 1996 World Cup consecutive Governments’ have shown a lot of encouragement and support for the sport in terms of development. When the cricketers go on overseas tours or politics it is their personal choice. Whether its right or wrong to enter politics while playing cricket is been a questions since Sanath Jayasuriya has done it. Personally for me I have no plans of joining politics. But for Sanath at the stage of his cricketing career he made the choice that was right for him.
Caller Joel from England: How will the spin department fair after Murali’s retirement and what is happening to Vaasi?
He is one of the fittest players I have played with and he handled his omission from the Sri Lankan team with a lot of grace. His chances for the World Cup are very much alive and Aravinda de Silva hasn’t forgotten about Vaasy and neither has the team. Murali’s retirement will create a vacuum in world cricket we will never be able to replace him. A cricketer like him comes once in few generations. The search is not for the next Murali but the next best spinner.
Caller Ubaidullah: Do you have twins?
I have a Son and a daughter who are twins. They are just over a year old now and they are doing fine. Their names are Swyrie and Kavith.
What are your views of the new selection committee and its chairman Aravinda De Silva?
They are people of integrity and have been cricketers of high calibre. They determine the career of cricketers, the future and present of Sri Lankan cricket. Their job is not always easy They have to try an pick not just the best 11 players but as Ranjith Fernando would say best in the combination of 11 players. A player is going to feel bad about certain decisions. I have great respect for the Selection Committee. Aravinda whose shrewd and intelligent when it comes to cricket.
What do you as the future of Sri Lanka cricket in terms of talent, training and technological development?
Talent is not going to be a problem. We got a great school structure that will always churn out good players. Unfortunately from there onwards the nurturing of those cricketers is critical although there isn’t a process in place where they can play professional club cricket like in England and Australia. When the cricketers don’t make it to the national team can make a living playing club or county cricket. We need to get there and the best way is by the Provincial cricket. National players also be committed to playing provincial. So that the younger players get to talk, watch and play gaining much needed exposure. We are upto date with the technological advancements so far.
Caller Ruvin: Why hasn’t Sanath Jayasuriya been dropped?
As a result of his performance in the past one year Asantha de Mel and Aravinda de Silva had decided to drop him.
How involved were you in the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards and what was your role?
On behalf of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) the Presidents office asked me to go to India and be part of the Press Conferences. I think it was our responsibility as ambassadors. Charity match with proceeds going to much needed charities.
What are you plans for the upcoming tournaments?
Nothing short of winning a test series with India and it is very satisfying to do so. (Daily Mirror online)
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