Sri Lanka Head Coach Chandika Hathurusingha had invited former captain Kumar Sangakkara to address the national cricket team during the preparations for the Asia Cup campaign. Hence Sanga attended the training Thursday evening at RPS and spent time speaking to the players and working with them. His speech to the 16-member squad had one keyword – ‘preparation’ – a mantra that brought Sri Lanka so much success during his stint as captain from 2009 to 2011.
“The Head Coach had invited Sanga and it was a very useful session,” Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews told ThePapare.com.
“We all know that he is the most consistent batsmen ever to play the game. His thoughts were very valuable. He was talking about the mindset, preparation, the mental skill and technical aspects of the game. It was a very worthwhile session. Obviously, those were words from a legend and we are grateful for him for coming over despite his busy schedule and spending time with us,” Mathews added.
Sanga keeps harping on the preparation aspect maybe because he realizes that in the Sri Lankan culture, there is not much attention given to this crucial aspect. He seems to believe in the adage that ‘If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail’.
During his playing days, Sanga’s preparation was meticulous and his work ethic is something that has been never seen before or after. Journalists had a nightmare during his tenure as skipper as he invariably would be late for the pre-match press conferences. But there was an enormous amount of respect. He was late because he was fine-tuning his skills. No one ever complained. There’s much to learn from the likes of Sanga for the current generation.
Sanga wasn’t the most gifted player around. Far from it. School cricket is a very good yardstick to determine which players would make the grade internationally. During Sanga’s time at Trinity, he was hardly heard of. Those making the headlines were Tilan Samaraweera and Aviskha Gunawardene from Ananda, Mahela Jayawardene from Nalanda and Upekha Fernando from S. Thomas’.
Eventually, Sanga not only went past all of them but was the number one ranked batsman in the world for a record number of weeks.
Similar values were encouraged during his time as captain. Despite the talent, if Sanga suspected that there was lack of effort from a certain player, he used to look at other options and persevere with the substitutes. That is how Angelo Mathews was fast-tracked and given a break during the World T-20 in England before his time was due. Mathews grabbed the opportunity from both hands and made his Test debut a few weeks later in Galle.
Sanga was constantly at crossroads with the administration seeking the best for his team. It’s a pity that his captaincy lasted for less than two years (Jun 2009 to March 2011). But what a remarkable two years that was – one of the best phases of Sri Lankan cricket.
During those 20 months, Sri Lanka won their first-ever series in Australia and beat Pakistan at home for the first time. The team also reached the finals of two ICC events – World T-20 in 2009 and World Cup in 2011.
Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India once urged the youth of his country to dream and chase those dreams. An avid reader that is what Sanga did in achieving one of his dreams in cricket. In 2014, he arrived for his last tour of England having not made a hundred at Lord’s.
He had received a standing ovation for his Cowdrey Lecture during the 2011 tour but his batting effort was yet to be written on the Honours Board of Lord’s. So, prior to the 2014 tour, Sanga decided to take up a brief county assignment with Durham, the northernmost English county.
This was for little financial return but to prepare himself well for the challenge ahead. The reason why Durham was preferred was that the extreme cold at Chester-le-Street would help him acclimatize to the early summer cold.
Not only did Sanga achieve his dream of making a hundred at Lord’s by posting 147 in the first innings, the star batsman hit half-centuries in all Test innings of that tour to finish with an average of 85. That is what preparation can do and that is what Sanga has been always harping on. That was a memorable tour with Sri Lanka winning their first ever Test series in England.
Sri Lanka’s players will benefit from the session Sanga had with them. However, he can only take them to the water; it is up to them to drink.