England v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Rose Bowl June 15, 2011

Reluctant Sangakkara admits captaincy headache

  shares 27

If his two-year stint as Sri Lanka's captain was anything like as stressful as it appears from the outside to have been, Kumar Sangakkara is currently 33 going on 40. "Captaining Sri Lanka is a job that ages you very quickly," he admitted at the Rose Bowl on the eve of the third Test against England, as he prepared to step back into a role he relinquished, with evident relief, at the end of the World Cup final in Mumbai two months ago.

Following on from the loss of their captain, Tillakaratne Dilshan, to a broken right thumb, it always seemed likely that Sangakkara would return to lead his country for the 15th and final time in his 97-Test career. However, his reluctance was clear from the moment he handed the reins to Thilan Samaraweera for last week's three-day warm-up against Essex, and as he admitted to the media ahead of practice at a soggy Rose Bowl, he needed time to weigh up his options as the poisoned chalice was passed once again in his direction.

"When I was first approached to captain the side I wasn't ready to take it on, because the fact was I had given it up, with a view of having finished my role as captain after two successful years," said Sangakkara. "Unfortunately there was no vice-captain appointed for this Test series, so the side was left in a bit of a problem with no-one to step in to captain.

"So with a lot of deep thought and considering the needs of the side and the country, I decided to say yes to captaining Sri Lanka again for a final time in this Test."

The situation was reminiscent of Michael Atherton's reluctant resumption of his captaincy duties at Lord's in 2001, when Nasser Hussain's broken finger had required a change of leadership after a solitary Test of that summer's Ashes. The difference, of course, was that the break between stints could be measured in years rather than months in Atherton's case. Sangakkara has barely had time to adjust to life back in the ranks, and now he is back in charge once again.

"I actually made my decision to resign a month or two before the World Cup," he said. "Looking from the outside in, it's sometimes difficult to fathom why a decision like that could be made, but once you're in the team, and in that environment, you realise that captaining Sri Lanka is a job that ages you very quickly. But that's a challenge of the job as well. You say yes to the job knowing full well the challenges you will face.

"It's rarely a job you will last long in," he added. "Mahela Jayawardene was a fantastic captain for us for two years, and he also resigned. I also had a two-year stint, and I enjoyed it at times, certainly on the field where our results showed we were one of the top two sides in the world for one-and-a-half years, especially in the shorter form of the game. We reached three World Cup finals in a four-year period, two in 50-overs, one in the Twenty20 format, and we beat Australia in Australia after 26 years.

"The achievements are huge. On the field, Sri Lankan cricket has been one of the most positive advertisements of our country for a very long time. We have produced world-class players, world-class teams, and World Cup-winning teams. I think the health of Sri Lanka cricket is very good and cricket itself is very strong. But when I stepped down from the captaincy, I thought I was done with it, but I was clearly wrong! I'm back for one last time."

Regardless of the team's recent success, it is a particularly tricky time for Sangakkara to resume his role. The political interference in selection has reached spectacular levels in recent months, starting with four eyebrow-raising changes to a settled and confident team ahead of the World Cup final against India, and culminating in the recall of Sanath Jayasuriya for the forthcoming one-day series, after more than a year on the sidelines.

"That's a question for the selectors," was Sangakkara's diplomatic response to the Jayasuriya issue, as he spelt out the convoluted hierarchy in Sri Lankan cricket, which extends from the sports ministry, down through the cricket board, and ultimately out to the players. "Sanath is a legend of the game," he added. "One of few batsmen in Sri Lanka who has managed to win games consistently on his own for the country."

However, in the event that Dilshan's thumb injury keeps him on the sidelines for longer than expected, Sangakkara was adamant that he will not be persuaded to extend his captaincy stint beyond this one-off game. "Realistically the selectors have stated they are looking at different options to lead the side, and to groom another captain under Dilshan," he said. "They will appoint a vice-captain very soon, so that a situation like this does not arise again."

For now, however, all the doubts and off-field stresses need to be put to one side, as Sangakkara seeks to extend his team's proud recent record against England. A victory at the Rose Bowl would square the series and leave England without a Test series win over Sri Lanka since 2002, and that prospect is set to guide their strategy in the coming days.

"The real opportunity is to tie the Test series, so the way we play has to reflect that," he said. "Whether you lose 1-0 or 2-0 you've still lost a series, but if we scrap and perform the way we can, we have the opportunity to tie the series. We need to show no fear and be as positive as we can, but at the same time execute all we've spoken about properly on the field, to try and help us win a Test match."

But the major obstacle to that objective, as Sangakkara conceded, is the loss of Sri Lanka's leading batsman in the series to date. Dilshan's absence as captain has thrown up a whole host of issues within the squad, but as a batsman who scored 193 at Lord's in spite of a broken thumb, he will be badly missed.

"It is a significant loss in both capacities," said Sangakkara. "He's been the one batsman who's stood out among us, even in the tour games, and it would have been great for him to be available to captain the third Test and finish the series on a high. Unfortunately he's not available, and we have to fill the void."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY hawkeye30 on | June 17, 2011, 5:57 GMT

    To all who is standing up for a cricketer who can't stand up for us as a nation... Pathetic display .. Sanga only manages to score 65 runs in 5 innings and mahela 97 runs in 5 innings.yet he is capable of whining about captaining the national team. Thilan and prasanna were available for both practice matches including Dilshan. Hence they have performed well. Sanga needs to put his mind in to national duty rather than his franchise.. It's a fact that without preparation you can't perform well in England. Don't you agree??

  • POSTED BY Jayco on | June 16, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    Simple question: why couldn't Jayawardene have captained in this Test?

  • POSTED BY Sageleaf on | June 16, 2011, 15:17 GMT

    Gosh guys stop all this crap and play for your country. You guys are thinking too much about past and politics without playing well for your country as a team. Sanga, you have a responsibility of captaining the side and just do it well without any complain. Otherwise England is definitely going to win this test and have 2-0 series win because Sri Lanka is playing so negative cricket since the first test. If you cannot play due to stress or what's going on in Sri Lankan cricket right now, just don't play and give an opportunity to someone else. Please don't wind and play and make a mess. I guess some of the senior players have forgotten their responsibility of playing for their country at highest level. It's a sad sight. Why is Herath still playing ..where is Randiv?

  • POSTED BY crickstats on | June 16, 2011, 10:32 GMT

    Don't be surprised if Sanath leads the side if Dilshan doesn't play the 1st ODI, But Sanga has his job cut out, We all want a fast bowler, but none is in the horizon

  • POSTED BY Philip_Gnana on | June 16, 2011, 8:50 GMT

    "Politicking" in cricket has gone on for years, ever since becoming a test playing nation. The players and public do not like it but accept that it is beyond their control. Blaming individuals (slectors) is not going to change anything. The selectors are from a good cricketing background and some who have served the country well. The IPL sure did have a huge impact on the present tour. The players who were not in the team that played the first practice game know too well that they were partly responsible. It did not send out the right signals from a cricketting point of view. But, money is part and parcel of present day cricket which also encourages the players to retire early. There is tremendous talent around in SL. What we require of the players is to give their 100% commitment nothing more nothing lesss. Wining the test is going to be a huge task. England have to play badly for us to have a chance. Posting a score of 600 in the first innings is what is required. Philip G,Surrey

  • POSTED BY johnathonjosephs on | June 16, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    @AB99 murali never wanted captaincy just an fyi england has upper hand to make this a 2-0 series unless sanga steps up batting as a captain AND most importantly makes the right selections (no maharoof, randiv in, and a good fast bowler in)

  • POSTED BY courierpost on | June 16, 2011, 8:08 GMT

    Sanga good on you mate since not much of an option

  • POSTED BY Fast_Track_Bully on | June 16, 2011, 7:15 GMT

    who ever be the captain the result will be 2-0.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2011, 5:46 GMT

    Sangakkar's hesitation was acceptable and which is clearly not relating to his inability or lack of leadership qualities or anything else. Sanga was a born leader and a great captain both in and off the field. And one of the few gentlemen remained in the cricket field. As all the Sri Lanken cricket followers know that, He wanted to leave the captaincy gradually and even agreed to lead the side in Test Format till the Austria tour, with the intention of giving more time for a new leader. Unfortunate Selected had better view and knowledge didn't allow Sanaga to leave peacefully by not considering the good work he did as a captain for two years. Now the pay back time --- and my major worry is I fee Sanga will not continue as a player for a longer duration.

  • POSTED BY AB99 on | June 16, 2011, 5:31 GMT

    What a shame Sanga ... Sri Lanka's all time greatest cricketer Mutiah Muralidharan waited all his career to captain Sri Lanka and never got a single chance and there people want to give away the responsibility of captaining the team ...

  • POSTED BY hawkeye30 on | June 17, 2011, 5:57 GMT

    To all who is standing up for a cricketer who can't stand up for us as a nation... Pathetic display .. Sanga only manages to score 65 runs in 5 innings and mahela 97 runs in 5 innings.yet he is capable of whining about captaining the national team. Thilan and prasanna were available for both practice matches including Dilshan. Hence they have performed well. Sanga needs to put his mind in to national duty rather than his franchise.. It's a fact that without preparation you can't perform well in England. Don't you agree??

  • POSTED BY Jayco on | June 16, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    Simple question: why couldn't Jayawardene have captained in this Test?

  • POSTED BY Sageleaf on | June 16, 2011, 15:17 GMT

    Gosh guys stop all this crap and play for your country. You guys are thinking too much about past and politics without playing well for your country as a team. Sanga, you have a responsibility of captaining the side and just do it well without any complain. Otherwise England is definitely going to win this test and have 2-0 series win because Sri Lanka is playing so negative cricket since the first test. If you cannot play due to stress or what's going on in Sri Lankan cricket right now, just don't play and give an opportunity to someone else. Please don't wind and play and make a mess. I guess some of the senior players have forgotten their responsibility of playing for their country at highest level. It's a sad sight. Why is Herath still playing ..where is Randiv?

  • POSTED BY crickstats on | June 16, 2011, 10:32 GMT

    Don't be surprised if Sanath leads the side if Dilshan doesn't play the 1st ODI, But Sanga has his job cut out, We all want a fast bowler, but none is in the horizon

  • POSTED BY Philip_Gnana on | June 16, 2011, 8:50 GMT

    "Politicking" in cricket has gone on for years, ever since becoming a test playing nation. The players and public do not like it but accept that it is beyond their control. Blaming individuals (slectors) is not going to change anything. The selectors are from a good cricketing background and some who have served the country well. The IPL sure did have a huge impact on the present tour. The players who were not in the team that played the first practice game know too well that they were partly responsible. It did not send out the right signals from a cricketting point of view. But, money is part and parcel of present day cricket which also encourages the players to retire early. There is tremendous talent around in SL. What we require of the players is to give their 100% commitment nothing more nothing lesss. Wining the test is going to be a huge task. England have to play badly for us to have a chance. Posting a score of 600 in the first innings is what is required. Philip G,Surrey

  • POSTED BY johnathonjosephs on | June 16, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    @AB99 murali never wanted captaincy just an fyi england has upper hand to make this a 2-0 series unless sanga steps up batting as a captain AND most importantly makes the right selections (no maharoof, randiv in, and a good fast bowler in)

  • POSTED BY courierpost on | June 16, 2011, 8:08 GMT

    Sanga good on you mate since not much of an option

  • POSTED BY Fast_Track_Bully on | June 16, 2011, 7:15 GMT

    who ever be the captain the result will be 2-0.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2011, 5:46 GMT

    Sangakkar's hesitation was acceptable and which is clearly not relating to his inability or lack of leadership qualities or anything else. Sanga was a born leader and a great captain both in and off the field. And one of the few gentlemen remained in the cricket field. As all the Sri Lanken cricket followers know that, He wanted to leave the captaincy gradually and even agreed to lead the side in Test Format till the Austria tour, with the intention of giving more time for a new leader. Unfortunate Selected had better view and knowledge didn't allow Sanaga to leave peacefully by not considering the good work he did as a captain for two years. Now the pay back time --- and my major worry is I fee Sanga will not continue as a player for a longer duration.

  • POSTED BY AB99 on | June 16, 2011, 5:31 GMT

    What a shame Sanga ... Sri Lanka's all time greatest cricketer Mutiah Muralidharan waited all his career to captain Sri Lanka and never got a single chance and there people want to give away the responsibility of captaining the team ...

  • POSTED BY stormy16 on | June 16, 2011, 5:21 GMT

    I cant imgaine too many teams on tour without a vice captain - more so in a team looking for a new leader! Guess SLC has strange of mysterious ways of operating. Yes not the idea set up for Sanga or SL but now that its happened he must score runs and plenty of them. Lets face it SL's only chance of avoiding a defeat is making big runs and its got to come from the big guns starting from sanga.

  • POSTED BY schathuranga on | June 16, 2011, 4:55 GMT

    Our criket built on tuff foundation so we can ahieve any target.i dont like ugly comments..go..sri lanka..go....

  • POSTED BY MangoDolittle on | June 16, 2011, 2:58 GMT

    Sources tells me that Dilhan's finger is fine and this is a how SL government who controls SL sports have tricked Sanga back in to captaincy.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | June 16, 2011, 1:22 GMT

    Sanga has earned the right to express his opinion. However, to admit to such reluctance to captain the side right before an important match is hardly likely to inspire the Sri Lankan players, is it? If the captain isn't fired up, how can you expect the players to be? Dilshan was full of enthusiasm- one of his strengths. I don't see the SL players giving much of an effort in this test with such lukewarm leadership.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2011, 0:48 GMT

    @CricketPissek: When he opted-out of the first tour game in this current tour. He and Mahela were in from only the 2nd Practice match.

  • POSTED BY ravindias on | June 15, 2011, 23:51 GMT

    It is very clear how disappointed sanga is.Sri lankan cricket board is so irresponsible and do not have any policy in selecting the team.So they could plug in anyone they want for political and financial benifits.If this continue sri lankan cricket is going to be worse than West indies ( Same thing collapsed WI ).Former players like Dulip Mendis and others are also responsible,They also don't have any love for the game and only thinking abut there financial benifits.If captainning a team is this much stress( Sanga concerned on captainning for one match), you could imagine how much dirt is in sriankan cricket.I love my country and cricket.So this is very disappointing. We have couple of world class players, please protect them.You can assume why Malinga Retired.Don't let that happend to sanga and Mahela. Who ever is capable, should clean up the srilankan cricket board from top to bottom, If they love the country.

  • POSTED BY CricketPissek on | June 15, 2011, 21:44 GMT

    hawkeye30 - when did Sanga choose IPL over national duty?

  • POSTED BY on | June 15, 2011, 19:58 GMT

    @Blacke & Hawkeye Sanga had to go through so may during the world cup... if you read the artical properly it says "The political interference in selection has reached spectacular levels in recent months, starting with four eyebrow-raising changes to a settled and confident team ahead of the World Cup final against India, which were things outta his reach,where he was not happy with the team,sanga wants to play cricket with his selection,not with players force to take due to countries political benifits

  • POSTED BY on | June 15, 2011, 18:54 GMT

    KS is greatest ...dunno wats d prblem bt vry soon h'll recover of his bad form.. Bt also nw d time is 4 dilshan to lead d country

  • POSTED BY hawkeye30 on | June 15, 2011, 18:15 GMT

    @MOONAMAPLE: I agree with you on sanga having the right to express his thoughts. But you must not forget that he is stating all of these statements on international media where as these issues could have been solved between the governing body of SL cricket and sanga himself. I don't agree sanga has single handedly won a match for SL. He is one of the worlds greatest batsman in the current scene, he has played match winning innings too, however my respect towards sanga deteriorated when he chose IPL over national duty. Just coz a player has performed well for his country does not give him the liberty to disgrace the national cricket team. If he couldn't do the job, he only had to convey that to the board and they would have had to look at some one else. Instead he chose to accept the captaincy and make statements as this. Very disappointing from a great cricketer!

  • POSTED BY mogan707 on | June 15, 2011, 17:37 GMT

    I think Sangakkara has lost his interest in the game quite a bit after the loss in successive World Cup final defeats.It was one of the low phases Sangakkara might have entered;He must have a rethink in Test captaincy;He has left at least two years in him to captain while giving Dilshan and Samaraveera vice-captaincy roles.I also guess the people are feeling that he has an attitude problem now;Sangakkara while captaining had been on the losing side many times;And most of the times Dhoni was the opposite captain; The tale began during the 2005-06 Ind-SL series in India when Sangakkara opened the innings and scored a century(129) to give India a tougher chase of 297 after losing one(ortwo) games in the series; Dhoni played his best explosive innings on that day hitting 10 sixes to score an unbeaten 183*;Time for Sanga to watch KungFU Panda 2 to know how to develop "inner peace" and REGAIN HIS FORM in Cricket.

  • POSTED BY MOONAMALPE on | June 15, 2011, 17:20 GMT

    sanga has every right to express his thoughts of captainning the srilankan team once again.Because he has been holding the job and done exteemly well to put srilanka at great heights in the world cricket during his captaincy.So he knows how hard is the job.He is deserve to be the captain at any time and as honest cricket fans we must not forget how many matches he has won single handedly for Srilanka.I am telling to cricket fans please give more gratitude to players like sanga who has already done huge service to srilankan cricket.I want to tell something to kandamby,now you are our vice captain for one day series so be more positive on your batting,go for shots,when you come out to bat or feild think that your objective is to win the match and not to keep your place in the team.Because it reflects with the way you played in the past. I like to wish Sanga and srilankan team allthe success in the third test and appraise his attitude of going flat out tommorrw.

  • POSTED BY CricketPissek on | June 15, 2011, 16:14 GMT

    Blake Houston, unfortunately, cricket in Sri Lanka (like many other 'developing' nations) isn't as straight forward as that. I doubt David Cameron calls Andrew Strauss to tell him to include Graham Hick in the team to defend the ashes, but the equivalent was the same for Sanga.

    Also, it wasn't he who wanted himself to put away the gloves, it was the selection panel who, rightly, said he would perform better as a batsman if SL had a specialist keeper. How would you feel if you're forced to go back to your old job 2 months into starting your new one? Give the guy a break. We can't even start to imagine what he had to go through.

  • POSTED BY m0se on | June 15, 2011, 16:00 GMT

    [quote]I enjoyed it at times, certainly on the field[/quote]

    So, what does the captain do outside the field? The article doesn't say.

  • POSTED BY hawkeye30 on | June 15, 2011, 15:57 GMT

    This is ridiculous! All Sangakkara has been doing is whining. Either you accept it or not. Since you have accepted it shut the hell up and do your duty as a player. If you cannot step a side and let many more deserving players to make it to the big league. As a fan of SLankan cricket I'm sick of listening to this kind of attitude. he is better off playing the IPL so that SLanka could build a quality player in the years to come.

  • POSTED BY on | June 15, 2011, 15:11 GMT

    Sangakarra needs to stop whinging, 1st he doesnt want to wicketkeep, now he doesnt want to captain whats next?? Sangakarra you are a fantastic player, but u need to look out for the interest of the team as well.

  • POSTED BY WPDDESILVA on | June 15, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    Where the heck is Angelo Matthews? Make him the Vice Captain when he is back - problem sorted.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • POSTED BY WPDDESILVA on | June 15, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    Where the heck is Angelo Matthews? Make him the Vice Captain when he is back - problem sorted.

  • POSTED BY on | June 15, 2011, 15:11 GMT

    Sangakarra needs to stop whinging, 1st he doesnt want to wicketkeep, now he doesnt want to captain whats next?? Sangakarra you are a fantastic player, but u need to look out for the interest of the team as well.

  • POSTED BY hawkeye30 on | June 15, 2011, 15:57 GMT

    This is ridiculous! All Sangakkara has been doing is whining. Either you accept it or not. Since you have accepted it shut the hell up and do your duty as a player. If you cannot step a side and let many more deserving players to make it to the big league. As a fan of SLankan cricket I'm sick of listening to this kind of attitude. he is better off playing the IPL so that SLanka could build a quality player in the years to come.

  • POSTED BY m0se on | June 15, 2011, 16:00 GMT

    [quote]I enjoyed it at times, certainly on the field[/quote]

    So, what does the captain do outside the field? The article doesn't say.

  • POSTED BY CricketPissek on | June 15, 2011, 16:14 GMT

    Blake Houston, unfortunately, cricket in Sri Lanka (like many other 'developing' nations) isn't as straight forward as that. I doubt David Cameron calls Andrew Strauss to tell him to include Graham Hick in the team to defend the ashes, but the equivalent was the same for Sanga.

    Also, it wasn't he who wanted himself to put away the gloves, it was the selection panel who, rightly, said he would perform better as a batsman if SL had a specialist keeper. How would you feel if you're forced to go back to your old job 2 months into starting your new one? Give the guy a break. We can't even start to imagine what he had to go through.

  • POSTED BY MOONAMALPE on | June 15, 2011, 17:20 GMT

    sanga has every right to express his thoughts of captainning the srilankan team once again.Because he has been holding the job and done exteemly well to put srilanka at great heights in the world cricket during his captaincy.So he knows how hard is the job.He is deserve to be the captain at any time and as honest cricket fans we must not forget how many matches he has won single handedly for Srilanka.I am telling to cricket fans please give more gratitude to players like sanga who has already done huge service to srilankan cricket.I want to tell something to kandamby,now you are our vice captain for one day series so be more positive on your batting,go for shots,when you come out to bat or feild think that your objective is to win the match and not to keep your place in the team.Because it reflects with the way you played in the past. I like to wish Sanga and srilankan team allthe success in the third test and appraise his attitude of going flat out tommorrw.

  • POSTED BY mogan707 on | June 15, 2011, 17:37 GMT

    I think Sangakkara has lost his interest in the game quite a bit after the loss in successive World Cup final defeats.It was one of the low phases Sangakkara might have entered;He must have a rethink in Test captaincy;He has left at least two years in him to captain while giving Dilshan and Samaraveera vice-captaincy roles.I also guess the people are feeling that he has an attitude problem now;Sangakkara while captaining had been on the losing side many times;And most of the times Dhoni was the opposite captain; The tale began during the 2005-06 Ind-SL series in India when Sangakkara opened the innings and scored a century(129) to give India a tougher chase of 297 after losing one(ortwo) games in the series; Dhoni played his best explosive innings on that day hitting 10 sixes to score an unbeaten 183*;Time for Sanga to watch KungFU Panda 2 to know how to develop "inner peace" and REGAIN HIS FORM in Cricket.

  • POSTED BY hawkeye30 on | June 15, 2011, 18:15 GMT

    @MOONAMAPLE: I agree with you on sanga having the right to express his thoughts. But you must not forget that he is stating all of these statements on international media where as these issues could have been solved between the governing body of SL cricket and sanga himself. I don't agree sanga has single handedly won a match for SL. He is one of the worlds greatest batsman in the current scene, he has played match winning innings too, however my respect towards sanga deteriorated when he chose IPL over national duty. Just coz a player has performed well for his country does not give him the liberty to disgrace the national cricket team. If he couldn't do the job, he only had to convey that to the board and they would have had to look at some one else. Instead he chose to accept the captaincy and make statements as this. Very disappointing from a great cricketer!

  • POSTED BY on | June 15, 2011, 18:54 GMT

    KS is greatest ...dunno wats d prblem bt vry soon h'll recover of his bad form.. Bt also nw d time is 4 dilshan to lead d country

  • POSTED BY on | June 15, 2011, 19:58 GMT

    @Blacke & Hawkeye Sanga had to go through so may during the world cup... if you read the artical properly it says "The political interference in selection has reached spectacular levels in recent months, starting with four eyebrow-raising changes to a settled and confident team ahead of the World Cup final against India, which were things outta his reach,where he was not happy with the team,sanga wants to play cricket with his selection,not with players force to take due to countries political benifits