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Kumar Sangakkara’s Secret of Success: ‘Work,Work and More Work’

Kumar Sangakkara

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s struggles to gain Test status were many, but since becoming full members of the ICC in 1981, the three decade period has been an eventful one.

Sri Lanka became World Champions in ODI cricket in 1996 and on four other occasions reached finals of various ICC events, once ending joint-champions alongside India after the 2002 Champions Trophy was rained off. Over the years there have been Test wins in England, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies.

A Sri Lankan holds the World Record for highest wickets in both Test and ODI cricket. The country has narrowly missed the number one rank in Test cricket on a couple of occasions. While Muralitharan dominated the bowling charts holding onto the number one title, Sangakkara held the honour in the batting list. On Saturday Sangakkara added another feather in his cap when he became the first Sri Lankan to be awarded the prestigious Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Cricketer of the Year.

Sanga also took home two other awards – Test Cricketer of the Year and LG Peoples’ Player of the Year award.

After passing 30, most cricketers are past their best. But with Sanga that seems the contrary and that makes you wonder whether his best years are yet to come?

Currently he averages 56:73 in Test cricket, which is above Brian Lara (52:88), Ricky Ponting (52:75) and Sachin Tendulkar (55:08). All three players have been considered modern day greats. Sanga doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath, but statistics prove otherwise.

Late bloomer

As he has often done, again Sanga admitted after winning the award that he was nowhere near the class of some of his contemporaries in the school cricket circuit. Of his contemporaries, Mahela from Nalanda was earmarked to play for Sri Lanka and so were Thilan Samaraweera and Avishka Gunawardene both Ananda and Upeka Fernadno from S. Thomas’.

He said on Saturday that finally he decided to give up tennis (his sister was a former national champion) for cricket because he was going nowhere with tennis. And what a decision that proved to be.

Mahela Jayawardene gave insight to Sanga the cricketer. Apparently if he had a bad Test Match, the phones of coaching staff keep buzzing as he wants to put to rest whatever the technical glitches he may have picked up.

On tour, when there has been too much of cricket and schedules are hectic, the coach makes net sessions optional. You can be assured that one of the persons who will turn up for practices when it’s optional is Kumar Sangakkara, something that young players will do well to remember.

After receiving the award, Sanga was asked his secret for success. ‘Three things,’ he said. ‘work, work and more work.’

He got off to a horrible start in England last year scoring 11, 14, 12 and 26 in the first two Tests in Cardiff and Lord’s. Sanga had never scored a Test hundred in England and with Sri Lanka’s next tour to England only in 2014, there were fears of his career ending without a Test hundred in England.

There was a warm up game ahead of the final Test at Chelmsford against Essex and while a couple of senior players opted to skip the match, Sanga played the three day game and scored 153 in the first innings and went into the final Test at Rose Bowl with some momentum behind him.

There he achieved that elusive hundred in England when under pressure he scored a second innings century to ensure a draw. England’s Ashes winning attack had Anderson, Tremlett, Broad and Swann and a determined Sanga battled them in an effort that lasted for 14 minutes less than six hours.

The past 12 months have been extremely vital for Sanga for many reasons. His Colin Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s was wrongly interpreted by certain parties at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) with vested interests. He was no more the captain and after such a scathing attack on the establishment (and rightly so) people were waiting to vent their anger hoping he goes through a bad patch.

There were already talks of relieving him of wicket-keeping duties as the team had to look into the future. But Sanga let his bat do the talking. It was a strange coincidence that the selection process for ICC awards started following his Lord’s lecture and in the 12 month period he was unstoppable scoring 1,444 runs in 14 Tests at an average of 60.16 while in 37 ODIs he had scored 1,457 runs averaging 42.85. In Tests, he had scored five centuries and five half-centuries while in ODIs he made three centuries and nine half-centuries and, into the bargain, came 42 dismissals behind the stumps.

As for personal milestones, he has been saying that he would love to score 30 Test hundreds and 10,000 runs. He already has achieved one and is a few runs short of the other milestone. He achieved yet another of his dreams when he scored a match winning hundred in Durban as Sri Lanka beat Proteas for the first time in South Africa. His next aim should be helping Sri Lanka conquer the two final frontiers. Australia and India remain the only places where Sri Lanka have not won a Test Match. Perhaps his next two goals should be that. And one of those challenges will come up in a couple of months time when Sri Lanka embark on their first three Test tour of Australia in 17 years. He nearly won Sri Lanka a Test down under when the country toured Australia last time when he made a sensational 192 before being wrongly given out. He has a fine opportunity to set the record straight this time around.

2012 ICC Awards

Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Cricketer of the Year – Kumar Sangakkara (SL)

Shortlist – Hashim Amla (SA), Michael Clarke (Aus), Vernon Philander (SA)

ICC Test Cricketer of the Year – Kumar Sangakkara (SL)

Shortlist – Hashim Amla (SA), Michael Clarke (Aus), Vernon Philander (SA)

ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year – Virat Kohli (Ind)

Shortlist – MS Dhoni (Ind), Lasith Malinga (SL), Kumar Sangakkara (SL)

ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Year – Stafanie Taylor (WI)

Shortlist – Lydia Greenway (Eng), Anisa Mohammed (WI), Sarah Taylor (Eng).

ICC Emerging Cricketer of the Year – Sunil Narine (WI)

Shortlist – Doug Bracewell (NZ), Dinesh Chandimal (SL), James Pattinson (Aus).

ICC Associate and Affiliate Cricketer of the Year – George Dockrell (Ire)

Shortlist – Kevin O’Brien (Ire), Ed Joyce (Ire), Paul Stirling (Ire), Dawlat Zadran (Afg).

ICC Twenty20 International Performance of the Year – Richard Levi (SA)

Shortlist – Tillakaratne Dilshan (SL), Chris Gayle (WI), Ajantha Mendis (SL)

ICC Women’s T20I Cricketer of the Year – Sarah Taylor (Eng)

Shortlist – Alyssa Healy (Aus), Lisa Sthalekar (Aus), Stafanie Taylor (WI)

David Shepherd Trophy for ICC Umpire of the Year – Kumar Dharmasena

Shortlist – Billy Bowden, Aleem Dar, Richard Kettleborough, Simon Taufel, Rodney Tucker

ICC Spirit of Cricket – Daniel Vettori (NZ)

Shortlist – Mohammad Hafeez (Pak), Jacques Kallis (SA), AB de Villiers (SA)

LG People’s Choice Award – Kumar Sangakkara (SL)

James Anderson (Eng)

Jacques Kallis (SA)

Vernon Philander (SA)

Sachin Tendulkar (Ind)

Courtesy: The Island