Sangakkara issues challenge to new generation
On the first day of a series aimed at regenerating Sri Lanka's Test side, Kumar Sangakkara has laid down a challenge for the young batsmen who are now set for an extended stint. Sri Lanka fielded four batsmen with fewer than ten Tests' experience, including a debutant, all of whom are yet to score a Test hundred. Angelo Mathews, who was recently appointed Test captain, has a solitary century to his name.
Of the young players, Lahiru Thirimanne finished unbeaten on 74 at stumps, having negotiated comfortably both seam and spin, alongside Mathews who was 25 not out. Dimuth Karunaratne had earlier made 41, having resumed his innings after retiring hurt when he was hit on the elbow.
"For guys like Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo, their target should be to score 35 to 40 hundreds by the time they finish," said Sangakkara, who made his 31st Test hundred on day one. "They've got the ability to do that. Thirimanne batted beautifully today and Dimuth's [dismissal] was unfortunate. Angie [Angelo] is looking really good. When you look at these younger guys, you see that they've got so much to offer Sri Lanka cricket.
"You can say there is a selfish element in getting runs and scoring hundreds, but if you keep doing that, you and your side benefit. When individuals keep pushing themselves to go beyond others, I think that's a really good atmosphere."
Sangakkara moved into tenth position on the all-time run-scoring list with his 142, surpassing Sunil Gavaskar. He had said earlier in his career that 30 hundreds and 10,000 Test runs was his career goal. He has reached both targets comfortably, but says there is still more he would like to accomplish in the game.
"Gavaskar was a fantastic batsman, and I'm very privileged to have had a career where I am able to go past him. Still I am three centuries behind him, but hopefully I can go beyond him on that count too. I'd still like more runs and more wins. I think that's what motivates all the guys who play."
Sri Lanka finished day one at 361 for 3, and Sangakkara said his side would aim to push on in the first session in day two, to set up a position from which they are unlikely to lose. Rain is unlikely to make a major impact for the remainder of the Test, but there have been short afternoon rains on each of the past three days in Galle. Sri Lanka are likely to want the game to progress quickly, to give themselves the best chance of going 1-0 up in the series.
"My idea after getting 100 was that the bowlers were tired and I wanted to get past 300. If we are able to pass 300 on day one, that makes it easier to make a declaration, after a session or so in the second day. Lahiru was batting really well, and my job was to try and accelerate and score runs quickly, so that the team was in a good position. 361 is a good score and it gives us a position to first bat one session [tomorrow], and then Angelo can decide when he wants to declare."
Sangakkara also paid tribute to Thilan Samaraweera, who retired earlier in the week after not being picked for the series. "Thilan was a magnificent servant of Sri Lankan cricket. He never had the limelight or the fame that he probably should have. I remember his debut against India - he scored almost a run-a-ball hundred, and was averaging in the 50s. Suddenly he had to stop playing cricket for two years because Aravinda de Silva made a comeback into the side. That's been the way [throughout] his career. Whenever the team wanted a shift or anything, Thilan was the easiest guy to move up or down, or in or out.
"I just hope that there will be other cricketers out there who will come in and do the kind of service that is unnoticed and unrecognised only [until] when they retire, [so they] can see what an amazing career they've had."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here