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June 2, 2011
Kumar Sangakkara insists Sri Lanka have no fear of facing England's trio of tall quicks likely to confront them during the second Test at Lord's despite the humbling experience of their second innings in Cardiff when they were rolled for 82. Chris Tremlett blew the top order away - although not Sangakkara, who was classically removed by Graeme Swann - and some of the tourists appeared distinctly uncomfortable when the England bowlers found their rhythm.
And it won't get any easier for the visitors. It's a mark of the current depth of English cricket that while James Anderson's injury is significant, they have Steven Finn ready on the sidelines should the decision be made to bombard the Sri Lankans from on high this week. Finn has bowled quickly for Middlesex and the England Lions this season, but Sangakkara believes Sri Lanka's batsmen can cope.
"I think out of all the subcontinent sides we play bounce a lot better than most sides," he said. "Everyone around the world, no matter if it's Ricky Ponting, will struggle against bounce and good bowling. That's the bottom line. It's a case of making sure you are up to challenges, whether it's Finn, Tremlett or Broad. You know what you are going to get and you just have to be confident enough in your own ability to score runs no matter what. Whether it's bounce, swing or seam, at the end of the day if you are a quality player you'll find a way to combat it."
Ponting did indeed struggle against England's combination of bounce and swing during the Ashes and it was one of the key reasons for the one-sided Ashes series. While not carrying the same emotion as England's feats down under, skittling Sri Lanka for 82 was a remarkable show of belief and intensity at the end of a match dominated by wet weather and a flat pitch.
No one, even those taking part, has really been able to explain how or why the collapse happened but Sangakkara admits Sri Lanka didn't have the right game-plan when they went out to face those 51 overs, and subsequently lasted just 24.4 of them.
"It is a bit difficult because, mentally, you aren't sure which way to go, whether you have to have positive intent right from the start," he said while visiting the Terrance Higgins Trust in London in his role as a Think Wise ambassador to raise awareness of HIV, 30 years after it was first discovered. "One way to save the game is to bat out 50 overs and the other is to get far enough ahead of them, they don't have time to get it. You need to strike that balance and we couldn't do that either.
"It's not something you reflect upon, you just forget," he said. "We were completely below par and it was a terrible batting performance when we only had to bat 50 overs. It's not something we need to remind each other about but it's worth remembering once in a while to realise how tough this game really is."
A tough game, yes, but ultimately only a game. Sangakkara knows all about putting sport in perspective having been on the team bus in Lahore when it was attacked in 2008. He clearly understands how to look at the bigger picture, which is why he takes his Think Wise role so seriously.
ICC Think Wise spreading the message
"It's great to actually meet people who do hands-on work rather than just talking to a camera. It opens your eyes," he said. "I try to make sure I seriously commit to it with time, effort, with knowledge whichever way I can. If you go and meet people they can look you in the eye and instantly know whether you are really there or you are just fulfilling an obligation. I owe it not just to myself and my role, but also the people I meet."
Like many of the world's leading players, Sangakkara's success has given him a huge profile and he is genuine about wanting to use it to make a difference, both while he is still playing and also in the future. "It's not about doing it in front of 20 cameras, it's about doing it when there are no cameras about and there's no one to write about it," he said.
There have been significant advances in the understanding and treatment of HIV in the UK in the 30 years since it was discovered, but that isn't the case in Sri Lanka. "You see the difference when you come to a place like England, both in how it is talked about and the facilities and help on offer to those diagnosed," Sangakkara said. "The rate of diagnosing cases in Sri Lanka is much lower, the education isn't nearly as good and we need to do a lot more to change that."
On Friday, though, Sangakkara's attention will, for the short term, be back on England's bowlers. Sangakkara's personal contribution of 11 and 14 continued his poor record on British soil where he averages 27.76 in seven Tests compared to his overall career mark of 56.63. Although Sri Lanka posted a competitive 400 in the first innings at Cardiff with Prasanna Jayawardene hitting 112, their onus will be on Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and the captain Tillakaratne Dilshan to lay the foundations for a recovery.
"This time around I really should be delivering," he said. "In 2006 I had a couple of half-centuries and you always kick yourself when you miss a century here. Coming here to score runs is something I've looked forward to and hopefully I can do that in these next two Tests. The tag of being a senior player is not just because you are older but it's because you've been there and done it, and done it consistently well enough to deserve to be where you are. Every day you go out, there is motivation that drives you to build performances."
Sangakkara's drive is clear in everything he does. Not just with bat in hand.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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