August 22, 2008

Celebrating struggle

There is extra satisfaction in playing a scratchy knock, in concentrating harder than usual, in pulling yourself back into form

"I tested the bowlers' patience, and once they tired down I could play the fluent strokes" © AFP

There are days when you walk out and start middling the ball right away, days when you know nobody is going to get you out. It is nice to play such innings, when you are in complete command, but the gritty, fighting knocks give you a different kind of satisfaction.

When you're struggling you consciously build an innings. You start identifying areas to attack and defend, what bowlers you will try and take more strike to. My century at the P Sara in the third Test against India was one such innings. That knock was all about ensuring I got into a rhythm, and paced myself. Once I got used to a certain bowler's run-up and turn, and once I got my rhythm going, I accelerated. Then when bowlers changed ends, I started from the scratch again, readjusting to suit that change.

I hadn't had the best of the series until then. I made 12 in the first Test and then 68 in the first innings in Galle, where I was disappointed that I didn't go on and get a hundred. It could have made a big difference to the outcome of the Test. Getting out for 1 in the second innings was extremely frustrating. But if you go into a match thinking it's going to be a struggle, not much is going to go your way. I always get my confidence from pre-match training, and I have a feel for how I'm going.

In such situations you have to make sure you convert starts into big runs. My work ethic has been to do all the hard work at practice, and then bat in the match as well as I have trained. If I'm successful that's very good. If I'm not, it's back to training.

But as long as I try and execute the plans I have trained for, the actual innings doesn't really matter. Thinking that way is easier for me to get back into form. If my focus is on doing the basics right, I have no worries. It was no different in the third Test, because I trained as well as I could and played according to my plan.

What was different in this innings of 144 was my magnified focus. When I have a rough idea of what a bowler is looking to do, I first check out the field, then the line he is bowling, and then I concentrate on one ball at a time. The moment a bowler goes up to his mark I switch on. I look at the ball from his run-up, when it is delivered, and until it comes onto the bat.

At the P Sara I didn't premeditate, and was very balanced. I kept telling myself to watch the ball. The way the game was going it was a case of testing the bowlers' patience. India could not just sit back. Harbhajan Singh couldn't have gone on bowling across me, because he needed to get wickets. He couldn't have kept tempting me that way. When I was getting a partnership going with Prasanna Jayawardene, and then with Thilan Samaraweera and Tillakaratne Dilshan, it was the same. India didn't have much more than 200 on the board, and the closer we got the harder they tried. And that's when the loose deliveries came. They started to err in line and length, and I had the patience to wait until then.

There are certain innings when batting with tailenders can be a huge plus. Suddenly the fielders try to get you off strike, and get the other guy out. I had that opportunity twice against New Zealand. The fielding side was not trying to get me out; they were giving me runs. I got easy singles, and figured I would face four balls and then rotate the strike, or hit two boundaries and trust the tailender. It really worked.

The way the game was going it was a case of testing the bowlers' patience. India could not just sit back. Harbhajan Singh couldn't have gone on bowling across me, because he needed to get wickets. He couldn't have kept tempting me that way

Against India we had to form partnerships, so my focus shifted. When the lower-order batsmen came out, I had to play smartly and rotate the strike. I had to try to build partnerships worth at least 10-20 runs to being with. I had to trust whoever was batting with me, hope he held his end up and did his share of the work. Every run got us closer to India's score. That was when my approach changed, I couldn't have cast off the burden of anchoring the innings. It was our first innings, and one which could have set up a win.

Batting was hard, and I had to get down and dirty. This innings was a bit like my first Test hundred, against India in Galle, in that it was a tough innings too. I had just been dropped from the one-day side, and it was a big comeback for me. I had gone in at No. 3, and batted through the innings.

Even before that I had scored a struggling 98 at Centurion in 2000-01. We were following on, I opened the innings, and was the last man out. It was my first away series, and I had Alan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini to contend with.

The innings at P Sara gave me tremendous satisfaction, and in the context of a series this was my best innings. It was a series-decider, and I had helped set up a win. All these innings have been a just reward for the amount of concentration and focus that made them possible, and just as cherished by me as the other fluent, spotless knocks.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfouser on August 26, 2008, 11:53 GMT

    Kumar, you are a world class batsmen. You can play gritty knocks or free flowing elegant knocks. Your under the leadership of a very good captain but I think the team will improve in the one day format if they play Malinda Warnapura at the top of the innings instead of Chamara Silva. Well done on your batting and good luck on the future

  • Manesha on August 26, 2008, 6:54 GMT

    It's good to see you put on sume runs on the board on the 3rd test against India and we saw how you adapted your skills and being patient in the middle and being a part of the match win.Now you guy's are paying the one day's in it's diffrent form of a game and looking at the seriese I can se we are haveing our backs in the walls,lsot 02 matches continuously what's happening? top oder is shakeing ,hardly building partnerships..opeing partnership is failing!! Sanga you guy's have to come up with some thing to level the seriese.Srilnakns have not performer for some time after 2005 as the score of Mahela (94 ) runs was the higest after some time!! why is Chamar silva paying still as he needs to be pulled out and let him regain his confidance by palying domestic cricket.I haven't seen a single partnership building in the ODI'S and you guy's just slipps one by one!! jsut think about the left games forget the past and re-group and show us what you guy's can do cause we can bounce back.

  • Rajinda on August 24, 2008, 23:36 GMT

    Once again a lone & desperate voice is out here, begging Sanga to step in to "highest position". Deterioration of Cricket specially in SL comes with folks with such mentalities & agendas, who wants a change just to please their needs. How sad it is that they are blind & cannot see what others witness. Except for the 144 he made in the 3rd Test, Sanga has his own issues of staying in form during this series, let alone stepping into other positions. The current player in that "high position" however has done really well in this series, in both bat & man management. At the time of writing 3 ODI's are in the books & Sanga is yet to pass 19 runs in any innings. While I hold Sanga in highest regard in both his cricket & writing, some parts of his write up do not make sense. He says "Against India we had to form partnerships.." Really? Shouldn't it be the case against any team you play? Continuing to write such obvious points could dangerously sound like giving excuses for the performance.

  • Darshan on August 24, 2008, 22:46 GMT

    Sanga, if SL are to do well they need to drop Chamara Silva. Sure, he proved that he can bat in New Zealand, but since then he has taken a nose dive. He should be dropped and play domestic cricket till he regains his confidence. If am not mistaken his last 11 ODI's have seen him score double figures in only 4 or 5. This is unacceptable for someone who is playing solely as a batsman.The other question is that, how come Dilhara played in the 2nd ODI,when the 3rd test debutant Prasad proved himself as an effective bowler? His 36 runs showed that he can at least hold a bat as opposed to Dilhara who is at a complete loss with a bat in his hand. Is he going to be another guy that comes in for 1 match, picks up wkts and then disappears?? Perhaps he might help u get a big score by "holding up 1 end" hope that some of these selection issues can be solved by someone who is as passionate about Sri Lanka as you seem to be. In order to compete with the world SL needs the best to play every match.

  • Arti on August 23, 2008, 9:59 GMT

    Hello Kumar,Fine innings that was... I being an ardous indian fan u may realize how tough it is to say that..Especially after the series is over and the result is out. But i really appreciate the dedication,hard work,focus and the passion with which u actually manage to take ur game to another level.Its tough to come back hard after a failure that too in a series decider.But then thats what seperates a good player from a great one-Taking the disappointments in one's stride,working on them and then overcoming them.And u manage to do it quite well.Hats off to u REALLY!!Keep up the good work.Maintain the same love,dedication and passion always.

  • dipesh on August 23, 2008, 9:33 GMT

    well said sanga...M and M r a great asset for sl and i think world cricket is already fearing we know WHEN THE GOIN GETS TOUGH THE TOUGH GET GOIN well u proved it right in the third test..i like ur work ethos very much

  • DON on August 23, 2008, 4:45 GMT

    Great version from Kumar, the article reflects the determination and the hunger for success. But unfortunately wish to state Kumar that 2-1 was not an acceptable result under the circumstances. In home soil and with the most devastating two spinners of all time the most acceptable result would have been 3-0. As pundits predict that with this blowing attack Sri Lanka could even beat Ausi on consist and regular basis. Unfortunately time mis- matches for the dominance of Sri Lanka Cricket. Assuming Arjuna got M& M, as he showed a great man management and economic (utilization of scared resource at optimum level) skill while he was leading the team, despite is uncharacteristic development at the later stage. Now, Kumar should re think and try to step in to the highest position at least to stop deterioration of Cricket as same is covered due to arrival of Medis. We have not witnessed a great Input from Kumar on this aspect during the test serious.

  • ellie on August 23, 2008, 0:03 GMT

    Re: Performances under extreme pressure and coming out victorious, the one and only Arjuna "Run-a-(minute)Tunga" comes to mind.. Great article Kumar..Keep up the excellent work on the field and bring SL glory!

  • Rajinda on August 22, 2008, 16:35 GMT

    I guess it's not a secret that SL's middle order is their weakest part of the game. Chamara Silva is in my opinion the biggest problem. I cannot remember the last time this guy made any significant contribution that actually mattered towards the result of the game. He is neither a useful bowler, unlike Kapugedara or a solid fielder like Dilshan. On the bowling department, it's a shame Malinga is not there to make the M&M attack in to a 3M. BTW that's one long injury which has made me wonder if the rumours, that it's more to do with something else (long hair, discipline, attitude etc.) are true, but who knows. Either way I can't understand how Dilhara is still around with his constant over stepping & inaccurate half pitches, not to mention his slow approach on the field. No matter how fast he is, if he can't find the line & length. Finally to govind_115, in the first 2 matches there were 4 SL hundreds & a double century from IND. So I have no idea what you were watching.

  • Dilumi on August 22, 2008, 16:05 GMT

    Kumar Sangakkara is an exceptional batsman. Through this article, anyone can see what his exact mind-frame is when batting, however, of course its completely different as to what is going on in the mind of the batsman at the crease. I completely agree with Kumar's perception of perseverance and stamina when facing a bowler. Obviously, each bowler has different aims to achieve during a match, and the batsman's skill is forced out when facing these different aims. Again, I have to say, that what anyone may comment here, it is different as to the actual event. As Kumar said, premeditation and lack of esteem can never ensure a glorious performance, let alone a victory. Keep up these ground-breaking, as I comprehend, articles and I hope that the Sri Lankan Team as well as Sri Lankans realise your importance to the team.

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