Sa’adi Thawfeeq reporting from Galle
GALLE: Sri Lanka will have their work cut out against bad weather and a resurgent India team as they plan to give batting icon Kumar Sangakkara a memorable farewell from international cricket when he plays his final Test series starting here on Wednesday.
Neither team managed a full practice session as the weather turned foul in the morning and did not improve since thus raising question marks whether there would be full day’s play over the next five days of the first Test.
Although his final Test appearance will be at the P Sara Oval venue of the second Test nevertheless Sangakkara who is Sri Lanka’s most prolific run-getter in all three formats of the game would certainly want to sign off on a high note at Galle which has a special place for him. It was here that he made his Test and ODI debuts and also his debut as Test captain apart from scoring nearly 2000 Test runs.
Sri Lanka will be hard pressed to give their batting celebrity a perfect send-off with a win, but it won’t easy as skipper Angelo Mathews expressed at the pre-match press conference.
“India is a tough opposition to beat regardless of playing at home or away. They have a really good balanced team and we have to play good cricket to win against them,” said Mathews.
“Although we didn’t win the series against Pakistan we played good cricket especially in the Test series. We fought really hard and it is just that we didn’t hold onto the third Test match.
“We got the same attack but the mind set has to change. We got 377 in the last Test and they had to break all the records to get there and they did. We didn’t expect that but it’s a lesson learnt. I don’t know if we could have done anything better at that point. It’s just that somebody needs to raise their hand and try and get us a few more wickets,” he said.
Mathews said his team was geared up to give Sangakkara a good farewell.
“He’s been a great servant for Sri Lanka cricket and for the team and we are very thankful to him for what we are today. Our team is in a better position after players like Sanga, Mahela, Thilan (Samaraweera) and (TM) Dilshan. Now it’s upto the younger generation to take responsibility and show what we are capable of.
“The way he has performed for the last 15 years he is easily the most consistent batsmen I have seen. I haven’t seen the great Donald Bradman but Sanga is easily the most consistent batsman I’ve ever seen. We’ve learnt a lot upto now and he is ready to teach us and pass on his experience and we benefitted a lot from him.”
Outlining the way Sangakkara has managed his long career, Mathews said, “He Is till unbelievably fit he is 38 and does all his fitness work he reaches his goals and the trainer will definitely second my thoughts because he is one of those players who works extremely hard on fitness and skills.”
Asked how the team would be without Sangakkara, Mathews replied, “It’s going to be a tough ask. It’s quite easy to captain with players like Sanga and Mahela, they had enough experience and now it’s going to be a fairly tough job, a transition period, new faces and it will be a tough challenge for all of us.
“We got to be patient the younger guys are very skillful it’s just that they need exposure in the international arena and have yet to learn. To learn you have to play and be patient with them and hopefully they can take the team where it wants to be.”
Mathews although he has decided to play in the Test will be carrying an injury a damaged ligament to his left wrist which he said, “I will have to go through with the pain”.
India skipper Virat Kohli said against good quality players like Sangakkara you don’t have to try something out of the box but crate pressure.
“In the last one day series we played in India we had one or two plans against him that worked for us. So it’s mostly about having one clear plan and obviously I can’t discuss it here. The guys are quite confident about executing those plans,” said Kohli.
“He is someone who scores consistently and can get big runs. It’s his last two games and he would like to leave a very significant mark before he goes. So it will be good to get him out early. But it’s not going to be easy.”
India will be without their most consistent opener Murali Vijay who has been rested with a groin injury.
“God forbid, we still have (Lokesh) Rahul who is in great touch. He is hitting the ball really well. He has got a hundred
in Australia. It was sad for him to miss out in Bangladesh. He is hungry to go, someone who really wants to do well and has great attitude,” said Kohli.