ICC World Twenty20 2009

We have "moved on" after Lahore - Sangakkara

Nagraj Gollapudi at Lord's

May 31, 2009

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Kumar Sangakkara pads up during an inter-provincial Twenty20 match, SSC, Colombo, March 26, 2009
Sangakkara: "It is great to be back playing cricket and hope we can make a challenge in the World Twenty20" © AFP
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Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lankan captain, believes his team is now mentally prepared to return to international cricket following the Lahore bus attack on March 3, but admitted that some apprehensions still remain, as shown by the recent decision to withdraw - along with Muttiah Muralitharan and manager Brendon Kuruppu - from a speaking engagement in Oxford due to security fears.

"Returning to cricket is the sign of normalcy for us, getting back to our normal lives," Sangakkara told Cricinfo. "The guys have moved on very well from Lahore. It is great to be back playing cricket and hope we can make a challenge in the World Twenty20. The side is really looking forward to doing well."

Sangakkara was one of the seven players injured in the attacks after terrorists fired and hurled grenades at the Sri Lankan team bus as it made its way to the Gadaffi Stadium on the third day of the second Test against Pakistan.

The team had its first practice nets at Lord's on Saturday afternoon and the players seemed happy to be back in action. "We remember the Lahore attack. There is a lot of emotion tied up with it, but we've got to move on," Sangakkara said. "Life moves on, cricket goes on. The guys have realised that and they are prepared mentally now."

Even if Sangakkara was happy with the security arrangements put in place by the ICC for the event, the aftermath of Sri Lanka's victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) - which brought to an end to a 26-year-old civil war - has brought with it new concerns.

Sangakkara said they had been alerted to the perceived security risks and players had been asked to keep the management informed of their movements. On Friday, he and Muralitharan were supposed to take part in a debate organised by the Oxford University Union but the visit was cancelled at the last minute as the organisers failed to put the required security arrangements in place.

"Our movements are a bit restricted at the moment but the security people have allowed us to keep our focus on the game," Sangakkara said.

Asked what the mood was like before the team boarded the bus for the first time after Lahore, Sangakkara said it was full of optimism and the usual banter. "Getting back together, going on a bus you know sometimes you look around and you feel how vulnerable you are in the bus if anyone wants to do any harm. At the same time it is great to get back on it as a team and play your first major tournament after Lahore. That feeling of togetherness, being through tough situations, and playing the game we love brings us a lot closer together."

Cricketers love routines and are superstitious when it comes to matters such as sitting on a particular seat. The Sri Lankans are no different. "Everyone just fell into their places. Lots of players have seats they are really fond of: Sanath [Jayasuriya] always sits on the right three to four rows from the front and Mahela [Jayawardene] likes to sit at the back. So the guys are back in their usual positions. Life is back to normal."

 
 
Lots of players have seats they are really fond of: Sanath [Jayasuriya] always sits on the right three to four rows from the front and Mahela [Jayawardene] likes to sit at the back. So the guys are back in their usual positions
 

Quite a few of the players, including Sangakkara, Muralitharan, Jayawardene, Jayasuriya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lasith Malinga and Farveez Maharoof played during the IPL in South Africa and are expected to carry the momentum into England. "We are trying to play on our unpredictability and our unorthodox make-up and hopefully be able to come up with the unexpected and surprising," Sangakkara said.

Unlike teams like India and Pakistan, who have landed relatively easy groups, Sri Lanka are paired with Australia and West Indies. Sangakkara is aware of the threat but is confident his team can make the second round as long as the batsmen can construct formidable scores for his in-form bowlers to defend.

"We start off in a very tough group so we need to win at least one, if not both of our opening games," he said. "We have got probably one of the best bowling attacks, but we've just got to make sure our batting complements that and gets totals we can defend. Guys like Jayasuriya, Dilshan and Mahela are in good form and can win games on their own, so it is going to be a good experience. It is also a good way to judge how far we need to go before becoming a force in Twenty20 cricket. We've got the depth in both bowling and batting."

Sangakkara has also put the onus on his young allrounders Maharoof and Angelo Mathews to perform and make an impact in the lower-middle order, which Sangakkara feels is the team's Achilles heel. "Angelo Mathews and Farveez Maharoof will have to take that responsibility of making that difference," he said. "We have lot more strengths than weaknesses."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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