Sangakkara firm over ODI retirement
If Kumar Sangakkara had a perfect Kandyan farewell - which featured a series win, a raucous full house, and a century - its mood was dampened slightly by one question: why is he already planning retirement?
Sangakkara has had a rich year in ODIs, hitting 1382 runs at 47.03, and leads the series run-scorers' list by 134 runs. Age has seemingly only enhanced him, as four consecutive years with over 1000 ODI runs will attest. Those runs have come quickest in the past two years, when he has struck at close to 90.
News that he will retire from ODIs after the World Cup has prompted widespread pleas for him to stay on as long as he is scoring runs, but Sangakkara himself sees it differently.
"If I'm not able to play in the next World Cup when one World Cup ends, there is no point in me sticking around," Sangakkara said after the sixth ODI. "All I'll end up doing is taking up the spot of another player."
"We have four years to build up a good team. Today, Dinesh Chandimal came in after a while and played a very special, very important innings. Just like that, the likes of Lahiru Thirimanne, Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera have plenty of ability and plenty of talent. We need to give them time and opportunities, just like we had when we were younger. They need time to settle, and mature and win another World Cup after this next one."
Sangakkara also confirmed he was in talks with Surrey about a county stint in 2015, and that the details of his Test future had not yet been nailed down. He strongly suggested he would not play beyond the India series penciled in for next August, at the latest.
"My plans for next year are a case of finalising my Test career, and ensuring I can keep my word to the people that I've given my word to," he said. "The only thing left is to think about my Test career beyond the World Cup. But I don't see myself playing more than a couple of series at the most.
"Playing for Surrey is something that I really want to do as well. Graham Ford is there. I've worked with Fordie, and he's been brilliant for Sri Lankan cricket, and personally to me. He's been a fantastic influence in my career. The idea is not to go cold turkey with retirement, but to slowly wind it down and make sure I don't drive my family nuts by staying at home all day. Hopefully I'll be able to make it there and have a good season."
Though he will not play an ODI in Sri Lanka beyond Tuesday's match, there is a chance Sangakkara will play again for Sri Lanka in Kandy. Trinity College, who own and maintain the ground at Asgiriya, have asked for a Test next year, and if they are granted a match, Sangakkara may play one more game at the ground where he made his name as a teenager. But regardless of Trinity's request, the Pallekele ground is also still in contention to host Tests next year.
His run-a-ball 112 made for a memorable last ODI at home, though Sangakkara said he had not begun the match with a burning desire to get to triple figures. "I just wanted to go out with a win, and to seal the series before we go to Colombo. We don't want to go to Colombo, have it be the final crunch game, and have other emotions and muddy the waters. We just wanted to make sure we had a good performance here. It was never a question of going out there to score a hundred.
"As the innings progressed, England bowled pretty well at the start, and it was hard work. Dilshan stuck around and we managed to build a partnership. Once that partnership progressed, run-scoring became a bit easier. Then once you get past the 70s and 80s, it was a case of trying to put pressure back on England."
The final ODI, which is now a dead rubber, will also be Mahela Jayawardene's final match of any kind, in Sri Lanka. Tillakaratne Dilshan, however, has suggested he may play ODIs beyond the World Cup.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando