South Africa v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Durban December 25, 2011

'The fewer excuses we make, the better' - Sangakkara


As a new year approaches, there is usually a desire to reflect on the one that is about to come to an end. For the Sri Lankan cricket team, that reflection has been both a want and a need.

Since losing the World Cup final, the zip of their bridesmaid's dresses has been caught and they have been unable to escape from them. They ended second best in the series against England, Australia and Pakistan. When they arrived in South Africa, the underdog label came with them and they stitched it on even more firmly after being crushed inside three days in the first Test. The other two days, they used for training and then they took some time out to work out how to improve.

"It's been the same mistakes repeated quite a few times," Kumar Sangakkara said. "Those are things we can't excuse. When you have a lot of excuses around you it really doesn't work."

"We've made the guys understand and move on from there. We need to work as hard as we can on every aspect of our game - from physical fitness, to skill work, to the mental side of things and to have fun while doing all of that."

Although Sri Lanka's lack of bowling depth was talked of as their major weakness, it turned out to be their poor application with the bat that cost them the Centurion Test. Everyone, from former captain Sanath Jayasuriya to batting consultant Marvan Atapattu and even captain Tillakaratne Dilshan has said the batsmen need to step up, and now Sangakkara has added his voice to that chorus.

"We have to bat well in our first innings and fight for every opportunity," he said. "Everyone is not going to be successful on the day, but you have seven batsmen, three of them need to fire and everyone else bats around them." Sangakkara's failure in both innings in Centurion, exposing the lower line-up to a South African attack who showed no mercy, was a big blow for Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan batsmen's insecurities are magnified in conditions which offer pace and bounce. Sangakkara said one of things the team has spent a lot of time working on is confidence. "Once we get them [the batsmen] believing in themselves, we can turn these results around," he said. "It's great to talk romantically about this but at the end of the day it's about sweating it out in the nets, being as tough as you can to deliver the 30 that might win you a game. Every day it won't be a 100 that will win you the game. Cricket is very old fashioned in that sense, it hasn't changed, it's just hard work."

Their training sessions are long, gruelling and intense. They wasted no time after being humiliated in Centurion and were back the next day to start over. When it rained in Durban, they used the indoor facility. Now, Sangakkara hopes that the regularity with which they do things in practice can be mirrored on match-day.

Sri Lanka have not delivered much in the latter part of this year but Sangakkara said their failures should motivate them to get better. "Like winning, losing can become a habit," Sangakkara said, and it's a habit that could poison the transition phase that Sri Lanka are currently in. "For new players to be coming in and for them to be in an environment where we have lost more than we have won is also not the ideal place to be."

Perhaps the only way to create a better team culture will be to rectify one of Sri Lanka's most glaring errors - the one of yesteryear that hindsight cannot fix. An over-reliance on record-breaking spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has never been more obvious than now, because Sri Lanka have failed to win a Test since he retired last year. Although all the senior players, including Sangakkara, have stressed the country's cricket, as a whole, needs to move on from the days of Murali, it's one of those things that is far easier said than done.

"It's time to forget all of that," Sangakkara said. "That's the way cricket works. Bradmans come and go. There are people who will take their place. They may not be as good as them but they will win matches in their own way. For us as a unit, the fewer excuses we make, the better it will be. The responsibility is on us now."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 27, 2011, 3:40 GMT

    ahmed afker firstly let me clear you who is best outside allover india far away this decade 2003 drew in aussies drew in england 2002 won netwest third team lanka smashed 2006 won in durban fastest in sa again seagain series won in england 2007 again won in perth 2008 no subcontinent team has won there dude lanka pak has not wona single test in austrlia decades lanka neva won lolzzz again india won cb series third team lanka smashed again 2011 drew in sa won in durban no subcontinent team wonthere lanka not won even a test in africa so clearly tells who is better lanka not even won in india instead of comparing to india do spmething both pan andlanka toreach india acheivements 20 percent

  • Habeeb on December 26, 2011, 10:07 GMT

    @Ahamed Afker, Agreed that SL started to win more matches than IND & PAK but the point is that the present team is just going thru the motions. SL did managed to win matches only due to the fact that ICC allowed Murali to bowl by mending the rules (Its a different matter that IND & PAK supported Arjuna just to get SL's support. Before 2005 Murli took 532 wickets in 91 matches. Its only after ICC allowed for his doosra that he took 268 more wickets in 42 matches. ICC had set a dangerous precedent i.e. suppose if a bowler is diagnosed with low eye sight since his birth, will he be allowed to overstep. Its ridiculous to amend rules just to satisfy some boards. Anyway talk about the present SL team apart from Sanga no world class players. Its also true that IND will face same problems once Sach, Dravid, Lax retire but they have groomed Virat and Rohit. Also how SL can say it is a transition when the entire is same except for Murli & Vaas was long gone and Malinga is always prone to injurie

  • Zafar on December 26, 2011, 8:42 GMT

    Sanga, you are one of my all time favourite batsmen, but you know what, Dilshan doesn't deserve captaincy... You need to take back the reigns and build the team... it's that simple...

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2011, 8:03 GMT

    @Amol_Ind_SA . You know very well SL had a problem at the moment within the team as well as management.So we cant expect any results right now that is understandable.May be SL ended this series with 0-3 because of internal issues. But that is better results than 0-4.You know one important factor so far SL played 29years of Test cricket and IND 79 Yrs and PAK 59Yrs. Within first 30 years results for those 3 countris as follows: Mts,win,loss,draw/nr for SL180-39-73-68 for PAK 122-26-33-63 for IND 82-8-34-40(all are excluding BAN,ZIM).Out of which for SL 11 away win and PAK 10 and IND 0.Now tell me who is the better team.1.PAK 2.SL 3.IND. India need 36 years to win a away test.Then how could expect from SL to win AUS,SA like that. But SL achieve much more than IND and other teams in first 3decades.So SL is better teams in that aspects.

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    @Tamil_SL: i agree with you..and i also know that some indian fans here troll on this..i will say that again, the analysis is being done for batting..where as sri lanka needs bowlers who can bowl out the opposition twice..but the same mindset which indians have..that batting is important...same goes for sri lanka..if sri lanka has good good bowling unit..then even batsman will deliver

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2011, 6:58 GMT

    Presently Sri Lanka is missing one Key bowler and a Consistent opener, individually everyones trying there bit and have been failing. I dont see any team in World Cricket can fit into present Sri Lankan's shoes, never ending political interferences, 8 months without their salaries.. Sri Lankan team is in their worst compared to last 08 years, the team hasn't clicked still, many spaces to fill in to be competitive, forced to play with a limited resources, seniors are under tremendous pressure.. back to back unpleasant defeats.. and they are against the best in not so friendly and unfamilar tracks. I'd say all the best guys!!Naturally Sri Lankan's have been good under pressure, we need one player to lashout with his frustration, would be ideal if a low key player can do this.. I'd then love to hear what the Pollocks and Vessels got to say.. Win or Lose we are there with you Lions cheering and Singing "I get knocked down, and I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down...

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    All Senior players need to support Dilshan. Lets stop politics and play for the country. Giving interviews and talking like masters wont help country. Now this has become like an election time. talk nice nothing delivered.

  • Mradul on December 26, 2011, 5:36 GMT

    @bMike, @Lillian: Why do you bring India in this debate? Isn't this column about SL-SA series? Why you bring India in all your comments? India has a bad bowling, bad fielding, bad betting yet they have Won more than SL and defeated both SL and SA at their respective homes, please end this and discuss only SL and SA here.

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2011, 1:20 GMT

    Hang in their SL players and fans. Things will change around sooner than all the naysayers make out. Fight hard and compete in every session. Sanga as usual is spot on "no excuses" and have the self-belief you are good enough to do the job. Don't worry about the haters, they will still talk you down even long after you start winning games.

  • Mike on December 26, 2011, 1:04 GMT

    Saddened by some of the comments by some SL and PAk fans. Please keep India out of SL series. Don't act on react to comments about India. When PCB and SL Cricket is not run properly why comment on BCCI. when Malinga doesn't want to play tests why blame Indian players. When SL is not winning abroad why compare with India. Our problem is to replace Murali and Vaas. Second Challenge is to get acountability to batsmen other than kumar (who has been playing well for the team). Other batsmen keen to be playing thier "natural" game with not much success and not willing to adapt.

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