Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup final, Mirpur March 7, 2014

Can Sangakkara rise for the final?

Kumar Sangakkara's form in Bangladesh this season has been sublime. But his record in ODI finals has not
24

People in Bangladesh have got used to watching Kumar Sangakkara bat long and bat often this year. He has been insatiable in these conditions against all sorts of bowling, but in the Asia Cup final against Pakistan in Mirpur, Sangakkara will have something to prove. Sri Lanka need him to play a defining innings, which has largely eluded him in tournament finals.

Sangakkara has scored 931 runs in 10 matches - two Tests, two Twenty20s and six ODIs - in Bangladesh this season. His aggregate is third on the list of runs in a season in a particular country away from home: Viv Richards scored 1045 in England in 1976 and 1057 in Australia in 1984-85.

Sangakkara's delight in batting at the moment was evident in how he made 76 against Afghanistan. He was getting beaten outside off stump by Mohammad Nabi, and for a while he looked like any other left-hand batsman. However, any other batsman might have gone after little-known Nabi out of pride, but Sangakkara was able to show the bowler the respect he deserved at the time, and then move on to succeed.

He seems to bat without an ego, a quality every aspiring batsman should cultivate, but sometimes Sangakkara needs to lose that habit and play with a bit of arrogance. It could give his proficient game another gear. Something like what Aravinda de Silva used to shred India in the 1996 World Cup semi-final.

Since 2009, Sangakkara has either played second fiddle in finals that Sri Lanka won, or he wasn't effective enough to win his team the game. Among the 38 batsmen who have more than 500 runs in ODI finals, Sangakkara has the 15th highest average. For a batsman of his stature, the fourth highest run-getter in ODIs, that is an anomaly.

In 26 finals, Sangakkara has scored 1023 runs at an average of 40.92. He does not have a hundred. In 13 of those games that Sri Lanka won, he top-scored in only three innings. He is missing a big score in finals, the sort of innings Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan have played.

The first final Sangakkara top scored in was in 2004, against Pakistan in Lahore. His 68 took Sri Lanka from 35 for 2 to 181 for 4. The second was in 2006, against Australia, when he made 83 in the first final of the VB series. Sri Lanka lost the next two. Three years later, against Bangladesh in Mirpur, Sangakkara made 59 off 133 balls in a tri-series final. Chasing 153, Sri Lanka were 6 for 5 but he steadied the innings before becoming the seventh wicket to fall, with 39 runs to get. Muttiah Muralitharan finished the job.

Sangakkara's ODI career is 14-years old and illustrious, but there is a gap he might like to fill. He has another chance on Saturday.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on March 8, 2014, 5:03 GMT

    Well, this reminds me of a leadership seminar of Sangakkara which was held in Colombo. Sangakkara was asked about the mentality of the dressing room and the dressing room dynamics prior to the 4 big WC finales Sri Lanka lost from 2007-2012. He said that the message clearly sent across was that not to be pressurized and take it as just another game in order to calm the nerves of the team. Later on Sangakkara was asked what will the team do differently if they proceed to another final in coming years. The response, as simple as he put across was: "Well it s simple, we should treat and play it as a final". Go Lions! Go play your best cricket out there!

  • Johnny_129 on March 8, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    Sanga is a great batsman with an average second to none in modern day cricket. However, his inability in finals is a concern. Hopefully, he will do it here and shut the doubters!

  • GreenGoat on March 8, 2014, 7:38 GMT

    Numerical analysis here is faulty. Sanga may have the 15th highest average of players who has played finals, but his average in finals is same as his overall average (40.92 for finals vs. 40.58 overall). he just has a lower ODI average than his peers, thats why he is 15th in that list.

    It is true that he has not singlehandedly won finals for SL; however, his playing, for most of his career was not about wining games singlehandedly (like Jayasuriya or Afridi). Best of luck to him to SL and to the Pakistanis as well.

  • on March 8, 2014, 7:31 GMT

    believe me.... Mahela will FIRE today!!!!

  • SLSup on March 8, 2014, 7:29 GMT

    Mohammad Isam writes some sensible stuff and keeps it short and simple. I like that. Just one small response to what Sanga needs to do and should not do: we are talking about the ICC's International Player of the Year in ODI's correct? : )

  • nickexplore on March 8, 2014, 7:09 GMT

    With Dilshan out of the tournament, Thirimanne has stepped up to the opener's spot very confidently. His excellent hundred in the first match vs Pakistan set up the win for SL, and will be fresh in the memory. Mahela will probably stay at 4 and Chandimal at 5, where runs will be needed if SL is to win. But watch out SL, if power-hitters Afrida and/or Umar Akmal stay in for any length of time, a first-at-bat score of 300 plus, or successful Pakistan run chase, is on the cards.

  • Prabhash1985 on March 8, 2014, 7:07 GMT

    I think Mahela should open with Kusal Janith. It will boost both players up. And, one down for Thirimanna, two down for Sanga, three down for Chandimal, four down for Mathews, five down for Thisara.

  • primo123 on March 8, 2014, 6:20 GMT

    maiden century or anything , Sanga needs to play big role today to clinch the finals , Sanga and Mahela would do needful today with the support of Anjalo

  • Ramansilva on March 8, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    This article mention about the 1996 world cup semi-final and also give a link. Thank you the writer for mentioning it. It was one of the Glory match of SL cricket where our team defeated more than an opposing team.

  • nickexplore on March 8, 2014, 5:42 GMT

    Finals are there to be won, and SL can not always rely on their superstar batsman Sangakkara to win it for them. Here is an opportunity for Kusal, Mahela or Chandimal (if selected) to rise to the occasion. Same for the bowlers - Malinga won it for SL last time against Pakistan and Mendis has been terrific all tournament - whose turn will it be today?

  • on March 8, 2014, 5:03 GMT

    Well, this reminds me of a leadership seminar of Sangakkara which was held in Colombo. Sangakkara was asked about the mentality of the dressing room and the dressing room dynamics prior to the 4 big WC finales Sri Lanka lost from 2007-2012. He said that the message clearly sent across was that not to be pressurized and take it as just another game in order to calm the nerves of the team. Later on Sangakkara was asked what will the team do differently if they proceed to another final in coming years. The response, as simple as he put across was: "Well it s simple, we should treat and play it as a final". Go Lions! Go play your best cricket out there!

  • Johnny_129 on March 8, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    Sanga is a great batsman with an average second to none in modern day cricket. However, his inability in finals is a concern. Hopefully, he will do it here and shut the doubters!

  • GreenGoat on March 8, 2014, 7:38 GMT

    Numerical analysis here is faulty. Sanga may have the 15th highest average of players who has played finals, but his average in finals is same as his overall average (40.92 for finals vs. 40.58 overall). he just has a lower ODI average than his peers, thats why he is 15th in that list.

    It is true that he has not singlehandedly won finals for SL; however, his playing, for most of his career was not about wining games singlehandedly (like Jayasuriya or Afridi). Best of luck to him to SL and to the Pakistanis as well.

  • on March 8, 2014, 7:31 GMT

    believe me.... Mahela will FIRE today!!!!

  • SLSup on March 8, 2014, 7:29 GMT

    Mohammad Isam writes some sensible stuff and keeps it short and simple. I like that. Just one small response to what Sanga needs to do and should not do: we are talking about the ICC's International Player of the Year in ODI's correct? : )

  • nickexplore on March 8, 2014, 7:09 GMT

    With Dilshan out of the tournament, Thirimanne has stepped up to the opener's spot very confidently. His excellent hundred in the first match vs Pakistan set up the win for SL, and will be fresh in the memory. Mahela will probably stay at 4 and Chandimal at 5, where runs will be needed if SL is to win. But watch out SL, if power-hitters Afrida and/or Umar Akmal stay in for any length of time, a first-at-bat score of 300 plus, or successful Pakistan run chase, is on the cards.

  • Prabhash1985 on March 8, 2014, 7:07 GMT

    I think Mahela should open with Kusal Janith. It will boost both players up. And, one down for Thirimanna, two down for Sanga, three down for Chandimal, four down for Mathews, five down for Thisara.

  • primo123 on March 8, 2014, 6:20 GMT

    maiden century or anything , Sanga needs to play big role today to clinch the finals , Sanga and Mahela would do needful today with the support of Anjalo

  • Ramansilva on March 8, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    This article mention about the 1996 world cup semi-final and also give a link. Thank you the writer for mentioning it. It was one of the Glory match of SL cricket where our team defeated more than an opposing team.

  • nickexplore on March 8, 2014, 5:42 GMT

    Finals are there to be won, and SL can not always rely on their superstar batsman Sangakkara to win it for them. Here is an opportunity for Kusal, Mahela or Chandimal (if selected) to rise to the occasion. Same for the bowlers - Malinga won it for SL last time against Pakistan and Mendis has been terrific all tournament - whose turn will it be today?

  • GustavXV on March 8, 2014, 5:15 GMT

    Very good analysis by Mr.Mohammad Isam.

  • on March 8, 2014, 4:30 GMT

    As a SL fan, I am delighted up to this point. However Pak is a formidable team, and this is the final. The Bangla spectators will be bringing the roof down rooting for Pak, understandably so, after the close calls and disappointments they faced in the past one month or so at the hands of the Sri Lankans. More over this won't be the first time the SL went undefeated until the one last time.... nor would it be the first time the SL went undefeated all the way to grab the Trophy. Good Luck ! to both teams, may the team that plays better (SL) win.

  • on March 8, 2014, 3:38 GMT

    What A Great Player From Beautiful Sri Lanka. Hope Sanga Gets A 100 In The Final. He And All His Fans Deserve It. Good Luck Lions Will Roar.

  • on March 8, 2014, 2:57 GMT

    very statsy! interesting read indeed.I guess this shows that every player no matter how big feels the pressure of the crunch game.I loved the stats about Viv though,just goes on to show what a class act he was

  • on March 8, 2014, 2:50 GMT

    He will! he will do what is necessary. Good luck sanga and my SL team!

  • on March 8, 2014, 2:43 GMT

    His average in finals is still remarkable. Better than Mahela. Yes Mahela has played more stand out innings, but Sanga is all about consistency. The Kallis of Sri Lanka, and without him Sri Lanka will not have even got to any of the finals. But I suppose in a perfect world, I too would love to see Sanga score a century and steer us to victory

  • on March 8, 2014, 2:08 GMT

    Final is always a special occasion.SL is the most balanced and consistent performer.Captaincy of Mathews is marginally better than the experienced pak captain.In the SL ranks there are more match winners than Pakistan.Afridi chances of playing are not that great.He shuld play.SL likes to play full strong Pakistan.Good luck both teams.

  • SajidMirza on March 7, 2014, 19:30 GMT

    Being a Pakistani fan i like Pakistani cricketer only,, but being a great lover of cricket, Sanga is the most favorite batsman of mine after Lara. No doubt he is a class act, he is equally valuable in test, one dayers as well as t20's. He has no ego problem, he respect the other thats why others respect him. He is a true classy player in sub continent and now days no left hander batsman in asia have calliber of Sanga. All the best Sanga against the Pakiz attack and i Wish Pakistan will win the Final. In Sha Allah.

  • priceless1 on March 7, 2014, 18:44 GMT

    Sanga be careful when you batting with Mathews , He( Mathews) has ran out many batsmen already during this tournament ( Tisara being his last victim) , always watch out for his "Yes" and Noooooo" calls

  • FawltyBean on March 7, 2014, 18:31 GMT

    Sanga or anyone else in the current team is not equipped to handle pressure in a final. I don't expect law of averages to work for Sanga tomorrow. However, I would love for Sanga and the team to prove me very very very wrong.

  • lovesanga on March 7, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    definetly sanga will fire & score 100 ....we wil win, what a player from a small island like SL love to see his cover drives in the final

  • jerryman on March 7, 2014, 17:26 GMT

    Hoping for a great innings from Sanga in a cliff hanger of a final. Hate to say this , I am happy he got a low score in the dead rubber against BD . This way the chance of him making a big score is more likely . SL must avoid unnecessary run outs with better communication . I think the players to watch tmrw will be Sanga, Mahela , Malinga & Mendis . How they handle the pressure situations will be the key . They have the experience in being in finals before . It is time to get the choker tag removed of not winning the final. To give credit Pakistan is a very good side and the bowlers will need to keep the batsmen in check . Who will outshine player for player will determine the outcome. Malinga vs Gul, Ajmal vs Mendis . The SL top order must settle down . Might be a good idea to have Jayawardena open with Kusal and Thirimanne could be a floater from # 4-7 depending on the situation SL find themselves in.

    Hope the umpiring standards are very high . It would have been better with DRS

  • YsaKaru on March 7, 2014, 17:20 GMT

    Don't worry.......he wiil do that for sl....... GOOD LUCK SANGA!!!!!!

  • KingOwl on March 7, 2014, 17:15 GMT

    There you go, Sanga. Do it this time!! We the fans will be hoping that you do it because you deserve it.

  • KingOwl on March 7, 2014, 17:15 GMT

    There you go, Sanga. Do it this time!! We the fans will be hoping that you do it because you deserve it.

  • YsaKaru on March 7, 2014, 17:20 GMT

    Don't worry.......he wiil do that for sl....... GOOD LUCK SANGA!!!!!!

  • jerryman on March 7, 2014, 17:26 GMT

    Hoping for a great innings from Sanga in a cliff hanger of a final. Hate to say this , I am happy he got a low score in the dead rubber against BD . This way the chance of him making a big score is more likely . SL must avoid unnecessary run outs with better communication . I think the players to watch tmrw will be Sanga, Mahela , Malinga & Mendis . How they handle the pressure situations will be the key . They have the experience in being in finals before . It is time to get the choker tag removed of not winning the final. To give credit Pakistan is a very good side and the bowlers will need to keep the batsmen in check . Who will outshine player for player will determine the outcome. Malinga vs Gul, Ajmal vs Mendis . The SL top order must settle down . Might be a good idea to have Jayawardena open with Kusal and Thirimanne could be a floater from # 4-7 depending on the situation SL find themselves in.

    Hope the umpiring standards are very high . It would have been better with DRS

  • lovesanga on March 7, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    definetly sanga will fire & score 100 ....we wil win, what a player from a small island like SL love to see his cover drives in the final

  • FawltyBean on March 7, 2014, 18:31 GMT

    Sanga or anyone else in the current team is not equipped to handle pressure in a final. I don't expect law of averages to work for Sanga tomorrow. However, I would love for Sanga and the team to prove me very very very wrong.

  • priceless1 on March 7, 2014, 18:44 GMT

    Sanga be careful when you batting with Mathews , He( Mathews) has ran out many batsmen already during this tournament ( Tisara being his last victim) , always watch out for his "Yes" and Noooooo" calls

  • SajidMirza on March 7, 2014, 19:30 GMT

    Being a Pakistani fan i like Pakistani cricketer only,, but being a great lover of cricket, Sanga is the most favorite batsman of mine after Lara. No doubt he is a class act, he is equally valuable in test, one dayers as well as t20's. He has no ego problem, he respect the other thats why others respect him. He is a true classy player in sub continent and now days no left hander batsman in asia have calliber of Sanga. All the best Sanga against the Pakiz attack and i Wish Pakistan will win the Final. In Sha Allah.

  • on March 8, 2014, 2:08 GMT

    Final is always a special occasion.SL is the most balanced and consistent performer.Captaincy of Mathews is marginally better than the experienced pak captain.In the SL ranks there are more match winners than Pakistan.Afridi chances of playing are not that great.He shuld play.SL likes to play full strong Pakistan.Good luck both teams.

  • on March 8, 2014, 2:43 GMT

    His average in finals is still remarkable. Better than Mahela. Yes Mahela has played more stand out innings, but Sanga is all about consistency. The Kallis of Sri Lanka, and without him Sri Lanka will not have even got to any of the finals. But I suppose in a perfect world, I too would love to see Sanga score a century and steer us to victory

  • on March 8, 2014, 2:50 GMT

    He will! he will do what is necessary. Good luck sanga and my SL team!