Sri Lanka look to three-in-one Sangakkara
Sri Lanka cannot ask for more of Kumar Sangakkara who performs a triple role - stylish batsman, safe wicket-keeper and shrewd captain.
The left-hander also knows that he as well as his side will need to be at their best in all departments in the World Cup if he aims to emulate Arjuna Ranatunga or go one step beyond his predecessor Mahela Jayawardene.
Ranatunga sparked wild celebrations in the country when he led Sri Lanka to their only World Cup triumph in 1996, against Mark Taylor’s Australians at Lahore.
He played a significant role in changing the face of Sri Lankan cricket with his bold, and sometimes confrontational, leadership.
Jayawardene raised visions of doing a Ranatunga when he led his side to the final of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, but had to be content with a runners-up finish against Ricky Ponting’s Australians.
He led from the front as he emerged the tournament’s second-highest scorer with 548 runs, including a crucial century in the semifinal against New Zealand in Kingston.
Like Jayawardene, Sangakkara does not appear to be as aggressive as Ranatunga, but is second to none when it comes to reading a match situation and exploiting the opposition’s shortcomings.
The success of Australian Adam Gilchrist, India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni and New Zealander Brendon McCullum showed that the day of pure wicket-keepers were over in one-day cricket.
Sangakkara also belongs to the ‘wicketkeeper-batsman’ club, giving his side more options. He can also hold his place in the team purely as a batsman, for he has the technique and temperament to play a long innings.
Named one-day captain in 2009, Sangakkara showed Sri Lankan cricket was on right track when his side beat four-time World Cup winners Australia to clinch their maiden one-day series Down Under.
“There’s a lot to be taken out of the way we played these games. We played the way we believed we could coming here,” Sangakkara said after his team’s series win.
“This is a stage we always wanted to get to where everyone does what is asked of him and you can’t ask any more of the players. They have grown in stature and self-belief.
“Sri Lankan cricket seems to be in really good hands going forward.”
The victory came at the right time for Sri Lanka, trying to find match-winners in the absence of hard-hitting batsman Sanath Jayasuriya and fast bowler Chaminda Vaas.
Sri Lanka left the veteran duo out of the 15-man squad for the World Cup, but look determined to build on the triumph in Australia.
Sangakkara, who has not been keeping wicket of late in Tests, is an attractive batsman to watch and can adapt himself to all forms of the game.
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