Former national cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara yesterday quipped that fans would likely be left disappointed if they expected him to be in the same vein of form he enjoyed before his international retirement in 2015, when he leads the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in a first-class match against Essex at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in March.
Sangakkara was appointed as the President of the MCC in October last year becoming the first non-British to be given the position, with an announcement following later in that month that the traditional curtain-raiser of the English domestic season – a match between an MCC XI and defending county champions – would be played in Sri Lanka.
The four-day match will be played at the Galle International Stadium from March 24 to 27, sandwiched between Sri Lanka’s two Tests against England.
“To have county players come here and have the experience of playing in the sub-continent, in an iconic location like Galle, and play against a quality MCC side made up of county professionals and fringe international players, carries a great deal of benefit,” Sangakkara said, later adding, “As the President of the MCC it’s an even bigger challenge as I’m playing in the game, and I have been asked to captain.”
Sangakkara said he was looking forward to the match, but expectations of significant contributions from him should be tempered down.
“(Just) don’t come expecting me to perform like I did before 2015. It’s been about three years since I last played,” he joked, adding that wearing cricket gloves during a 30-minute net session recently had caused some of the skin on his hands to peel off.
“I’m of course hoping to bat around number 7 so that I don’t need to face the fast bowlers,” the scorer of 12,400 Test runs, further quipped.
Regardless of the number of runs he scores, the match will only underline the MCC’s long standing relationship with Sri Lanka and developing its cricket -- the connection it has with the Foundation of Goodness in Seenigama a prime example.
“Since 2005 the MCC has maintained a Centre of Excellence in Seenigama with the Foundation of Goodness with about 25 scholarships given to cricketers there every year, through the MCC, and also the provision of high quality playing and coaching facilities. So there is a very strong connection and affinity to Sri Lanka that goes way beyond my appointment as President of the MCC,” the former captain also said.
He also said that the benefit for Sri Lanka would be left beyond just the cricket field, as the country struggles to regain its prominence as a tourist destination.
“It’s also helpful in terms of Sri Lanka and its profile especially if you take into consideration what happened earlier in 2019,” Sangakkara said, referring to the Easter Sunday attacks in April last year that resulted in over 250 deaths which also adversely affected the tourism industry in the country.
The composition of the team that Sangakkara will captain has not yet been decided, but the former national captain was of the view that several local cricketers would be included.
“(Selection) is by invitation and availability, and we try and get the strongest possible team. We want to have a great competition and win. We also to like to engage players from the country we are playing in, and Sri Lanka has some fantastic young players,” he said.
Sangakkara also said that he was thankful to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), who had undertaken the tedious task of organising the logistical aspect of the game.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, but SLC has provided a lot of support and we thank them for that,” he said.
SLC President Shammi Silva said Sangakkara’s appointment as MCC President was an achievement that was a point of pride, echoing the former captain’s statements on the knock-on effects of Sri Lanka hosting this match.
“I think it’s something we can be proud of, to have someone like Kumar being the President of the MCC. I don’t think in our lifetimes we will see another Sri Lankan achieve this. When this was offered to us, we quickly jumped at it. In terms of a tour, this is going to have a positive impact on the country, after the Easter Sunday attacks last year, because these are tourists who have traveled all over the world, and it will greatly benefit the country to have them travel here,” Silva said.