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June 9, 2014
Kumar Sangakkara likened the England team's differences with Kevin Pietersen to Lasith Malinga's presence in the Sri Lanka team, as he contemplated playing an England side without Pietersen in the Tests. Sangakkara has been a vocal advocate for an inclusive Sri Lanka dressing room throughout his career, and said England posed a less stern challenge without Pietersen in the middle order.
"I don't know the reasons for KP's exclusion but the fact remains that he's an amazing player," Sangakkara told Wisden Extra. "For us, it's been like that with Lasith Malinga. He is very different in the way he looks, and as a person. Not everyone gets on well with each other in a team. There are certain people you might not have dinner with, but that doesn't take away from the fact they will be valuable players in a national cause, going out trying to win matches."
Malinga has been among Sri Lanka's strike weapons in limited-overs cricket, and has crafted a reputation for being the most consistent death bowler in the world. Those virtues earned him the Player-of-the-Series award in the recent ODI series.
"Without going into details, we've had our own issues and difficulties over the years inside the dressing-room and outside it," Sangakkara said. "We've dealt with that very well as a side, and having 11 similar players is definitely not a positive thing. Having different players, different attitudes, different individuals and bringing that difference into the mix but being able to commit 100% to a team cause - that's the beauty of cricket."
Pietersen had had an impressive record against Sri Lanka, averaging 51.41 across 11 Tests. His most recent Test against Sri Lanka had produced one of his most memorable innings, when he struck 151 off 165 in Colombo, to change the game's course and set England on track for a series-leveling win.
"I've watched him, admired him and he is undoubtedly an out-and-out match-winner. Of course, as an opposition player I'm not disappointed he's not around. We know what damage he could have done to us, and the damage he has done to us before. To not have him walk in - that presence he has - is a bit of a relief."
Sangakkara also said he would consider returning to county cricket once he had wound down his international career. Sangakkara prepared for the ongoing tour with two County Championship matches for Durham last month. The upcoming Tests at Lord's and Headingley are likely to be his last in England.
"A couple of seasons in England would be fantastic. I really enjoyed my time in 2007 with Warwickshire, and Durham have been great. I like the feel of county dressing-rooms. There is a huge amount of ability in them, and a huge amount of hunger. Durham have been exceptional in that sense. It's something I would like to experience again once I've finished with Sri Lanka."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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