Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sanga – Man on a mission

It was confirmed on Wednesday that Kumar Sangakkara will be involved with county champions Durham earlier in the season. He is available for the county’s first few Championship games. Here the star batsman is seen after carrying Sri Lanka to win in his last T20 match.

Star batsman Kumar Sangakkara has conquered tough conditions all over the world. His magnificent 192 in Hobart in 2007 against an attack that comprised Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart MacGill is the highest individual score by a Sri Lankan against Australia and perhaps the best too ahead of Aravinda de Silva’s 167 at the Gabba in 1989 against an attack that featured Merv Hughes, Terry Alderman, Carl Rackermann and Geoff Lawson.

Sanga’s masterclass century in the Boxing Day Test Match of 2011 set up a historic win against the Proteas. The deadly South African attack comprised Dale Steyn, Marchant de Langa, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis.

When Sanga scored his first ever double century in 2002 against Pakistan, that attack had Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akthar and Mohammad Sami. The champion batsman has scored centuries and loads of runs all over the world.

Playing fast bowling has been child’s play for Sanga, but England has been a place he has failed to conquer. The moving ball has been his Achilles’ Heel. To put it bluntly, in England Sanga’s record has been below par.

Only in the last Test he played in England, Sanga managed a century. Yet, the figures are hardly convincing. Sanga averages a mere 30.58 in England in nine Tests whereas his career average at 58.02 is almost twice as bigger.

So what does Sanga do? He decides to forgo the IPL and instead play some county cricket to acclimatise to the conditions in England and better prepared to take on the English attack and the Duke ball.

It was confirmed on Wednesday that Kumar Sangakkara will be involved with county champions Durham earlier in the season. He is available for the county’s first few Championship games.

Sanga had a massive impact when he played a season of county cricket in 2007 for Warwickshire. He produced big knocks and returned home as a better player. Later he revealed that the demands of county cricket had helped him improve as a batsman. Like Kent helped Aravinda reach new heights, Edgbaston made Sanga a complete batsman.

The upcoming exposure will stand him in good stead and the fact that this time around Sri Lanka play the limited-over games early and the Tests come last is a massive bonus for the tourists as the team will benefit spending a few weeks in England prior to the Tests.

Although Sri Lanka’s Tests have been cut to two from the customary three this summer, when players like Sanga put lot of effort for preparation for the tough challenge, a Test win in England is a possibility. Sri Lanka hasn’t won a Test since beating England in Trent Bridge in 2006. And Sanga has never won a Test series away from home other than against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

Previously, Sanga has been blamed for playing the IPL and missing warm-up games in England ahead of the Test series. Last year he was leading one of the IPL teams and this year his gesture to pull out of the IPL auction and instead make himself available to play county cricket needs to be applauded.

With their cricket in disarray following the whitewash in Ashes and their best player – Kevin Pietersen no longer in the set-up and their premier spinner Graeme Swann retired, England are unsettled. They also failed to make it to the semi-finals of the World T-20 in Bangladesh and this presents Sri Lanka with an opportunity to cash in.

Sanga is 36 now. It’s unlikely that he will be around for another tour of England. His effort to improve his record in England and thereby help the team win will only win him more admirers.

by Rex Clementine -