Experience counts, but youth equally important: Sangakkara

Man of the match, Kumar Sangakkara

How much of a factor was experience out there? 
Well, it’s hard to say whether it was experience or whether it was just the way we adapted really quickly maybe. It’s probably a bit of both, but if you’re young and fresh, you have very little fear, and we saw it from guys like Joe Root who came in and they were lapping and reverse lapping right from the start, which was great to watch. But we had, like you said, two or three experienced guys who were proper batsmen, but Kulasekara coming in showed that he can handle a bat, as well.

Experience counts, but you need to have that good mixture of youth, as well.

How satisfying was it to come back and end up beating them with almost 300?
Yeah, it’s pretty good. The wicket was quite different. I thought the wicket was flattened out really well right throughout the game. We planned to try and get through Jimmy Anderson’s overs. We know how dangerous Jimmy can be as well as Swann, and everyone else in support managed to get through those tough periods pretty well.
t’s a shame, we had our chances, we probably should have won in Cardiff, we tried everything we could, and probably lost the game through no fault of our own, but coming here and winning this was a good, I think, confidence boost for us going into Australia.

How surprised were you to see Kulasekara walk to the wicket or was that something that had been discussed before?
Well, it’s strange, isn’t it? If that didn’t work, I think the team would have been torn to shreds, Angelo would have taken a lot of stick and criticism saying what was he doing and what were the coaches thinking. But when it does work it’s fantastic. Decisions like that can go both ways. I thought it was really strong of Angelo and the coaching staff to have taken that position, and everyone in our dressing room backs the decisions that everyone takes, really supports each other, and it’s great to see that it worked. Kulasekara batted very intelligently, and then that was the difference in that situation because it was easy for him to come and try and hit every ball, but he batted sensibly through power play and then accelerated right after.

You came into the series perhaps without much form behind you. After last game and this game you must be pretty pleased.
Yeah, it is. It’s a case of you go in and out of form at certain times, but 50‑over cricket, and when you come in and prepare really hard and well leading up to a series, it does pay off. I worked pretty hard in the first two weeks that we were here in the practice games as well as in practice, and I’m pretty happy that it worked for me.

As there often seem to be at Sri Lankan games in England, there were protestors outside the grounds today and they had a banner up overlooking the stands calling for a boycott of the Sri Lankan national team. I was wondering if that’s upsetting to you as a group of players and how you feel about it.
I think as a group of players, yeah, from Sri Lanka, we represent every Sri Lankan, both at home and abroad, and we’re very proud to play for Sri Lanka and we’re very proud to be Sri Lankan. So I don’t think it upsets or bothers us at all. We’re very happy, we’re very proud, and we’re very happy to be here representing our country.

At the interval what did you think of the score that you were chasing? Did you think 293 was about par or a bit under par?
I thought England was looking really strong at one point, probably heading to the 300 mark, but the few wickets in the middle, especially Lasith, the way he came back and bowled was exceptional. But it was really important for us to take momentum going back into the dressing room, but I think Bopara really managed to put some extra pressure on us by scoring 28 of the last over. What would have been 270 suddenly became 293, and that’s a big margin. But it’s a do‑or‑die situation, so everyone was probably pretty pumped up to try and go and win the game.

I think Ange brought us together just before we walked off the field and said, you know, just ‑‑ it’s do or die, someone step up or everyone step up and try and win the game. I think whether luck or ability, whatever, we managed to get through.

Yesterday Angelo said that the feeling in the group was really high after what was a loss in Cardiff. You’ve been around for a few of these campaigns. Is there a feeling that Sri Lankans know how to play tournament cricket and know how to ignite at the right time and get their act together off the back of a performance?
Well, we’ve done pretty well in big tournaments, but I think we need to keep working on starting tournaments really well. You know, in Cardiff I thought it was a poor batting performance by us. At the end of the game you kind of look at the game and you understand how important another 20 runs could have been. I probably had to take a lot of the responsibility for that because I could have scored that 30, 40 runs extra batting, which I failed to do. The ifs and buts are there looking back at Cardiff thinking what if we had converted that game. Right now we’d probably be in the semifinals. But we’ve got no one ‑‑ well, we’ve got to take responsibility for ourselves, and keep playing well throughout tournaments like this because every match counts.

Now, going to Australia hopefully now that we’ve understood how to win one game in the Champions Trophy after a poor start, we can hopefully convert that into a second win.

Given sort of some of the disappointments in world finals recently for yourselves, how special is a win like that when you’re facing elimination if you don’t win?
Well, you wish you’d scored in innings like that in one of those finals rather than here, but scoring runs is pretty satisfying. But a preliminary round doesn’t compare to a World Cup final.

England were a bit annoyed that the ball was changed after 25 overs. Were you surprised? Did you give the umpires any quiet encouragement to change the ball? Was it starting to reverse there a little bit?
Not really. I think the umpires had a look at it changed the ball. I don’t think any of the batsmen had anything to say before that or after that to the umpires. I think it was just the ball being either damaged or I’m not sure what it was really. But there was not much reverse out there. I thought Jimmy tried to get it to reverse at the end and he bowled really well, but the wicket was pretty flat, and I don’t think the wicket was abrasive enough to create that much reverse swing for England.

Where do you like this hundred in terms of the hundreds that you’ve scored? I know that’s probably a ‑‑
I think every hundred is satisfying in a different way, but it’s special if you get it in a winning cause. So I’m pretty happy.

Going into the most crucial game against Australia, do you think we need to pick up on the fielding ‑‑
Quite a contrasting fielding performance from Cardiff to here. Cardiff we were outstanding. I think we out‑fielded New Zealand, which is pretty tough to do, and here we were pretty poor, so we know we need to lift every department of our game, so hopefully we can do that, but whatever happens on the field, the key is to try and win and win at the end of the day, so that’s what we’ll be trying to do.

(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)