In defence of Sangakkara

In the past fortnight or so since that unfortunate no-ball incident involving Sri Lankan bowler Suraj Randiv and Indian opening batsman Virender Sehwag at Dambulla in the one-day tri-series, the captaincy of Kumar Sangakkara has come under the microscope with many thoughts and opinions expressed in the media at the way he handles the Sri Lanka team.

Sangakkara has been accused of shooting his mouth off too often rather than showing the same results on the field, for not discouraging Randiv from bowling the no-ball when Tillakaratne Dilshanís advice to the bowler from the covers would have easily been heard by Sangakkara and the fielders close to the wicket, for getting his team to appeal concertedly to obtain decisions in their favour etc, etc.

There is no doubt about it that Sangakkara once he steps onto the field plays the game hard almost on similar lines as the Aussies do with no quarter asked or given because the stakes for winning are so high today in this commercialised age that cricket has reached. It is an age where any team would go to the extent of even trying to bend the rules if they can to get a decision in their favour (not that Sri Lanka are guilty of it), although in the case of Sehwag it was not all about a result but depriving the player of his hundred. As captain Sangakkara is not infallible he does make mistakes on the field, but it is through mistakes that one learns and the captain is intelligent enough to do that.

Captaining a country especially in the subcontinent is not an easy job unless one has a strong and understanding administration which supports your thought and suggestions and acts upon them in good faith thus making the captainís job much easier. But when you have an administration that gives ear to what the captain says but doesnít do anything thereafter then you have a problem.
Few people realise what Sangakkara is currently undergoing with the current administration headed by former Sri Lanka Test cricketer DS de Silva. On one hand Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) tells Sangakkara that he must control his players and for him to concentrate on the game and leave the administration to deal with other matters such as the Chandika Hathurusingha issue, but on the other the SLC hardly acts on certain incidents thus creating double standards.

The SLC was quick to launch an inquiry into the Randiv issue and then hand out a media release telling that Sangakkara should have more control over his players and to ensure that such occurrences are not repeated in the future, thus questioning the captainís integrity. What we like to know from the SLC is, if they are so concerned about discipline, why have they not held an inquiry into the managerís report on the tour to Zimbabwe which took place in June this year where a senior cricketer stands accused of assaulting a woman and virtually ending up in jail. Then on the occasions where this same cricketer had been accused of match fixing in 2009 in the ICC World Twenty20 in England in June and during the tour of India in November-December. Has SLC swept all these allegations under the carpet and if so, for what reason?

The Nation understands that Sangakkara has been the one consistently calling for a level of player discipline from SLC but that has not been forthcoming and when such allegations such as the oneís stated above are not acted upon by a responsible body as SLC then the players and the captain can feel insecure with whom they are dealing with. There are certain elements within SLC who donít like Sangakkara calling a spade a spade and are uncomfortable with his vocabulary which is far above their intelligence.

The case of shadow coach Chandika Hathurusingha who was sacked by SLC on disciplinary grounds although the team management didnít mind him leaving the team ahead of the one-day final in Zimbabwe is a good case in point. Sangakkara had personally written to the interim committee chairman almost pleading to give Hathurusingha another chance considering his value to the teamís chances of winning the 2011 World Cup, but the SLC was hell bent in making sure that the shadow coach was sent packing home because he disobeyed the chairman.
This is not the first time this interim administration has acted thoughtlessly. Prior to Sri Lankaís cricket tour to India in November last year they sacked head coach Trevor Bayliss and when they found that they could not find a suitable replacement they went back to him unashamedly and told him to continue till the 2011 World Cup.

With so much insecurity around one must spare a thought for the national team captain who has to concentrate on more off-field issues than on field ones. If SLC keeps pushing Sangakkara and not giving him the support he needs at this juncture there will come a time (very soon) when Sangakkara like his predecessor Mahela Jayawardene would step down from the captaincy. He doesnít need the captaincy to secure his place in the team for he is undoubtedly one of the finest left-hand batsmen to grace the cricket field and can hold his place in any World XI let alone the Sri Lanka team.

Is this what the hierarchy at SLC is hoping for? Do they think they have enough potential captains in their bare cupboard to replace Sangakkara?
If winning the 2011 World Cup is Sri Lankaís priority then the SLC administration must come down from its high horse and along with the national selectors have a dialogue with Sangakkara and thrash out whatever issues they have and ensure that he and his team are given 110 percent support and the best possible team to beat the rest. This is Sri Lankaís golden chance of winning another World Cup which has come back to the subcontinent after 15 years. Are we going to miss this excellent opportunity because of a few petty minded officials?