Cricket doesn’t accord too many of its practitioners fairytale endings. On Sunday (April 6) night in Mirpur, however, two of Sri Lanka’s favourite sons, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena, bid Twenty20 International cricket farewell in the best way possible, holding the world trophy aloft.
For Sangakkara, the game was especially memorable as he carved an unbeaten half-century to see his side home. At the end of the day, however, a clearly emotional Sangakkara was just grateful for all that the game had given him.
“I don’t think the game owes us, or any player, anything. Our job is to try and play it as best as we can, and walk away hopefully having made a positive impact. The game gives us the opportunities and it’s up to us to try and take them,” said Sangakkara. “We had four opportunities before this, and today we took it. You need a bit of ability, luck, planning, execution. Right place, right time, right game.”
In the 36-plus years he has spent on the planet, there is no recorded history of Sangakkara being lost for words. But, even the most articulate and expressive people can be caught off guard by a groundswell of emotion. “It’s amazing. I can’t explain it. This is the first time I have been a part of a team that has won a World Cup. We’d been disappointed four times before. It’s hard to describe exactly what you feel, but you feel humble,” said Sangakkara.
“You realise how difficult it is to get here, how much support you need, not just from your team-mates, but from your family, your fans, the support staff … you can never do anything alone. You may be the best batsman in the world or the best bowler in the world, but you can’t do anything without support. At moments like this you have to look back, reflect and be thankful for that support, because without that you wouldn’t be here. It’s been an amazing journey. It’s time to walk away, and to walk away like this is even better.”
Sangakkara said he did not feel any additional pressure on account of having announced that this tournament was his last in the format. “It’s wonderful that the side wanted to win it for us. But there are 20 million other people to win for,” he said. “It’s not just about me or Mahela. It’s about an entire squad, everyone who stands with you and behind you. We get noticed because it’s our last game, but at the end of the day everyone has played a part.”
Through the course of his innings, Sangakkara kept his emotions in check, and it wasn’t until the finish line was within touching distance that he let go, with a fist pump to celebrate. “I am a great believer that if you get emotional you have to use it to your advantage. If not, then forget about being emotional,” said Sangakkara. “When we had 11 to get and I top-edged a boundary, I knew it was a couple of shots away, and with Thisara (Perera) at the other end it was a done deal. That’s when I thought I could show some emotion. Sometimes you have to pump yourself up to get over the line. That’s what happened today.”
The season has not been a bed of roses for Sangakkara, with a dry spell leading into the final of the World Twenty20. “I’ve had good times and bad, not just this year. What I did differently was that I probably watched the ball a bit better today, I was a bit more positive. Earlier when I went in at two down, I was cautious, trying to build a partnership, not being positive and showing intent,” said Sangakkara.
“That’s something I changed today. But, to do that we needed a low target. We knew that the Indian spinners could be effective here. The last four overs we bowled were immaculate. I haven’t seen four overs like that bowled to a guy on 70-something off 50 balls and MS Dhoni, who can hit any ball out of the park. For them not to be able to get bat on ball showed the quality of our bowling and the hard work and planning that had been done ahead of the game. You would take chasing 130 any day, but to restrict a side like that, we needed something special and our bowlers produced it.”
The bowlers were certainly special on the day, but the role Sangakkara, Jayawardena and the other seniors played in helping the team transition from the leadership of Dinesh Chandimal to Lasith Malinga was obvious. “Our job is to support anyone who captains. It doesn’t matter who is leading. It’s unfortunate that Chandi missed out on the last few games. Chandi has an amazing future, as a leader and as a player. He’s still very young, and probably 13-14 years ahead of him. He will be one of our better players,” said Sangakkara. “Lasith took over and did a fantastic job. We’re just happy that we have players who can step in and do the job when needed. We have that quality in our dressing room. That makes us believe in ourselves and each other and it shows when we walk out to the middle.”
(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)