'Sri Lankan pitches have changed' - Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara has said that Sri Lanka will be one of the favourites at the upcoming World Twenty20, despite Sri Lanka's pitches having become less spin-friendly. Pitches at Pallekele and Hambantota - stadiums built for last year's World Cup - have suited seam bowling, while the relaid square at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo has also seen bounce and carry in the last year. No team breached 200 in the Sri Lanka Premier League played in Colombo and Pallekele in August and four of the top five wicket takers in the tournament were seam bowlers.
"Our sides have changed a little bit," Sangakkara said. "We don't depend on spin alone anymore or just one fast bowler in Chaminda Vaas. We have different sets of fast bowlers and different sets of spinners. With the change in conditions our sides have changed, but home advantage is not only about wickets. It's about playing in your country, playing in front of the people who cheer and love you."
Sangakkara said the Premadasa pitch changed after the ground was renovated, and that winning the toss held no obvious advantage as it had once done. Fifteen of the 27 matches in the World Twenty20 will be played at the Premadasa, including both semi finals and the final.
"When the wickets were relaid, in the first few games there was a lot of turn and now they've settled down into beautiful wickets where batting first or second you have an equal chance of winning. Batting under lights has become so much easier that some sides now prefer to chase," he said.
The wickets at Pallekele and Hambantota also offer challenges not traditionally associated with Sri Lankan venues, Sangakkara said.
"Pallekele seems to have a lot in it at night. It seams and swings around and that will be an interesting challenge for us being a Sri Lankan side playing in our conditions to encounter those conditions. Hambantota is completely different. There is quite a strong wind from one side and the pitch can be a bit up and down. The vicious turn that [Sri Lankan pitches] used to have is no more, so sides have to adjust accordingly."
Sangakkara said that in addition to a home crowd that will give Sri Lanka "a massive advantage", the team's recent history of good performances at ICC events would also be a source of confidence. Since 2007, Sri Lanka have been runners up in successive World Cups, and were finalists in the 2009 World Twenty20 and semi finalists in the 2010 tournament.
"Sri Lanka have always been favourites in my view in any tournament that we play because we've been able to rise to those big occasions really well as a unit and adjust accordingly. If you take our last 4-5 years, it's been an amazing run in big tournaments. We just need to believe in ourselves and believe in that fact and keep playing."
Sangakkara missed the SLPL due to a fractured finger, but is expected to be fit for the World Twenty20 which starts on September 18. Sri Lanka play Zimbabwe in Hambantota in the tournament opener. South Africa is the other team in their group.