Kumar Sangakkara has said he will retire from Test cricket “by the end of August”. Sangakkara, 37, who will play his final ODI at the ongoing World Cup, is likely to end his Test career with the three-match series that is scheduled against India in August.
“There are Test matches in June and July, and I will be done by the end of August. A series or two in June and in August, and that’s it,” Sangakkara told ESPNcricinfo.
After two low scores at the World Cup, Sangakkara has been in top form, hitting consecutive unbeaten tons leading into the Australia match. He said it was important for both him and the team to build momentum as the tournament progresses. “I don’t know whether I am top of my game, I just bat according to situations. During the [preceding] New Zealand tour, it was the same thing, I didn’t have a good start in the first ODI but from the second onwards it was just a case of building on runs.
“[For the team] it has gone pretty well up to now. Again a slow start, a bit shaky against Afghanistan, but pretty good in the last two games. It’s just a case of trying to ensure that we put up a good performance every time we go out and keep on improving.”
The World Cup will also be Mahela Jayawardene‘s last international assignment, and the pair’s departure will leave a big hole in Sri Lanka’s batting. The players earmarked to step into their shoes are Lahiru Thirimanne, a left-hander like Sangakkara, and Dinesh Chandimal. Sangakkara had good things to say about both players.
“He batted beautifully and fought through some tough situations. He’s done a lot of hard work for the team and seems to be very impressive,” Sangakkara said of Thirimanne, who scored a career-best 139 not outagainst England and put on a double-century stand with Sangakkara. “Thiri is much better than where I was when I was his age, I think he can only get better and that’s really exciting for us.” In ODIs, at 25, Sangakkara had scored 1475 runs (avg. 25.87) in 70 matches and made eight fifties in comparison to Thirimanne’s present ODI record: 2127 runs (avg. 34.30) from 91 matches with four centuries and 12 fifties.
Speaking about Chandimal, who has faced a bit of a trough of late, Sangakkara said: “Unfortunately he’s not had some good outings here. He batted really well in the last two games against England in Sri Lanka, came here and unfortunately was not in the side for the first three-four New Zealand games. Since then it’s been a tough comeback for him.
“He’s batting well, he is a great player, really positive. He’s got everything to make him a really good player for Sri Lanka. I hope he keeps getting the opportunity and when he does, keeps doing what’s required of him.
“Technique or anything else, it’s about scoring runs. Chandi has shown he has the ability to score runs especially against good attacks. Coming in the second Test at Wellington and batting at 85 for 5 and getting 70-odd was another tough knock under pressure. He has the ability to do that, he just needs be free and happy and keep getting opportunities.”
What sort of advice can a player of Sangakkara’s experience and stature pass on to younger players like Thirimanne and Chandimal? “It’s a bit archaic to think that senior players only have so much to give,” Sangakkara said. “You play your best cricket for your country and do the best for your side and sometimes young players don’t need as much help as people think they do. They need a little bit of freedom, a bit of love, a bit of care, and they’ll perform very well.
“Whatever they need to learn most of them will ask and learn, or watch and learn, they’ll have a chat with you. But whatever you have to offer might not be of benefit to a younger player, maybe they need something else, maybe they are good enough and their perspectives are better than yours. Learning is a two-way street, you learn from them as well as young players learning from you.
“The best thing as a senior cricketer you can do is to hold your place in the side and pull your own weight and score runs if you’re a batsman, and if you are a bowler do the job that’s required of you. That’s the best way you can help the team or any youngster. As long as you are there and you are doing something useful, they’ll benefit.”