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Sanga: WHERE TO from now

February 8, 2014

Rex Clementine, courtesy of the Sunday Island 9 Feb 2014

kUMAR COVERDRIVES WHITE - PETER LANGSTONYou don’t often see Kumar Sangakkara remaining quiet for an  extended period of time. Sri Lanka’s number three batsman had an average series  against Pakistan where he had a top score of 55 in six innings. Sanga arrived  for the series against Bangladesh firmly focused and it was Bangladesh’s bowlers  who were at the receiving end in the second Test between the countries in  Chittagong as the former Sri Lanka captain became only the second man after  Graham Gooch to score a triple hundred and a hundred in the same Test.

There were other milestones as well in Chittagong for the star  batsman. In the first innings he equalled Gavaskar and Lara with his 34th Test  ton and in the second innings he went past the two greats and currently only  Tendulkar (51), Kallis (45), Ponting (41) and Dravid (36) have scored more  hundreds in Tests than him. In Chittagong he also completed 11,000 Test runs and  became the fastest man to do so. He was also the fastest to 8000 and 9000 runs  breaking the records held by Tendulkar and Dravid while he was joint fastest to  10,000 alongside Sachin and Lara, all of whom achieved the milestone in 175  innings.

At the end of the game, Sanga is sure to gain a few positions as  well in official ICC Rankings for batsmen.

Sanga has accomplished more than any other Sri Lankan batsman.  He has scored Test hundreds in Australia, South Africa and England, some of the  places where most Sri Lankans have struggled. No other Sri Lankan has recorded  Test hundreds in all three countries.

Aged 36 as he enters the twilight of his career, perhaps Sanga  should take a lead role in helping Sri Lanka to achieve some of those elusive  milestones.

It’s shocking that despite all those personal milestones and a  career that has spanned for 14 years, Sangakkara hasn’t won a Test series away  from home except against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Neither has he won an ICC  event despite entering the finals on four occasions! Stunning statistics indeed!

It’s not a case of Sanga’s efforts with the bat being not  sufficient to help the team win. He’s not one of those types who is obsessed  with personal milestones and forgets the team’s cause. Sanga is a sensitive man.  He cares for the future of Sri Lankan cricket and whenever he sees a promising  talent he helps the player abundantly.

What we would like to see is Sanga to take a wider role to help  the team realsie its immense potential and overcome those mental blocks and play  the Sri Lankan brand of cricket and achieve glory.

With his intelligence, oratorical skills and experience Sanga  can help Sri Lanka to achieve something truly remarkable before he calls it  quits.

Within the next 14 months he will have two opportunites to win  an ICC event. The World T-20 scheudled for March this year in Bangladesh is a  massive opportunity and not just as a batsman but as a senior statesman Sanga  needs to contribute in a big way for the nation to go all the way.

Then in early 2015, New Zealand and Australia will be hosting  the ICC World Cup. Sanga is unlikely to play the shorter versions of the game  after 2015. Following the heart breaks of Bombay 2011 and Barbados 2007 where  Sri Lanka lost the finals to India and Australia, there’s one more opportunity  to go all the way and the expertise of Sanga is vital for Sri Lanka.

Not just the ICC events, but winning a Test series away from  home is extremely vital too. Sanga wouldn’t want to be remembered as a player  who failed to win a series away from home. A milestone Sri Lanka’s best batsman  before him Aravinda de Silva achieved in both New Zealand and Pakistan.

Sri Lanka will have two ideal opportunities when they undertake  two overseas tours later this year. In May they will be in England while in  December, Sri Lanka will travel to New Zealand. With England in disarray after a  5-0 Ashes whitewash, there is an opportunity for Sri Lanka to achieve something  remarkable.

Sanga’s focus can be seen too as he has opted out of the IPL and  will have ample time to prepare for the challenge in England later this year.

The last time Sri Lanka won a Test series away from home, except  Bangladesh and Zimbabwe was in 2000 in Pakistan. There was an ideal opportunity  to record a series win against the same opponent away from home this time  around. But leading 1-0 in the series, Sri Lanka played negative cricket in the  final Test in Sharjah and lost a golden oppiortunity. Sanga didn’t appear to be  keen to end the negative play and had he taken a more proactive role helping  Mathews to set more aggressive fields, Sri Lanka could have won that series.

Whenever Sri Lanka has won overseas, Sanga’s contributions have  been vital. He set up the win in Wellington in 2006 with a thrilling hundred  while he contributed with half-centuries in West Indies (2008) and England  (2006) when Sri Lanka won Tests. But the series were drawn on both occasions.

Country’s cricketers need to give up their negative attitude  displayed during recent times that has brought the team disastrous results both  in crucial Tests and ICC events. A person of the caliber of Sanga can do a lot  to help the team play positively and stay focused.

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