Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sangakkara looks to rewrite history

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara will attempt to walk the line dividing personal ambition and team requirement against India.

Sangakkara's fledgling captaincy has been embossed with series victories over Pakistan and New Zealand, but those triumphs were secured at home where Sri Lanka's prowess is undisputed.

The tour of India holds special significance for Sangakkara - a series triumph would not only break Sri Lanka's winless run on Indian soil in 27 years, but it would also set him firmly on the path to becoming Sri Lanka's most successful captain.

Sangakkara's form is crucial to Sri Lanka's mission. It was his innings of 130 not out, accomplished in a stay of more than seven hours at the crease, which saved Sri Lanka from certain defeat in the Colombo Test against Pakistan in July.

Sangakkara hopes to bury India under a mountain of runs. He said: "My targets are the same wherever I play.

"I want to score runs, preferably by the hundred. I want to score 10,000 Test runs and get 30 hundreds.

"However, as with every batsman, personal ambition is supported by what the team needs."

Sangakkara, along with predecessor Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera, form an axis on which Sri Lanka's batting revolves.

The rest of Sri Lanka's batsmen are fairly inexperienced, especially in Indian conditions, and Sangakkara believes the middle-order would have to deliver if his team are to win.

He continued: "I think the middle-order batting has been doing very well over the last couple of years and that form has to last if the success of the team is to endure.

"It's the batsmen's job to be consistent. One cannot be complacent."
Dashing batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan is expected to take his place at the top of the order having recovered from a minor ankle injury and Sangakkara believes his form would be crucial.

"Dilshan opening the innings has been very good for us," he said.
"If he becomes successful in the Test format as he has been this year in the shorter versions, the opposition bowlers are going to be under pressure.

"In Test cricket there are many gaps to be exploited, but if he can grind it out, identify the period when he has got to be careful and attack at other times, it would be great," he said.

Although their practice game was washed out in Mumbai without a ball being bowled, Sri Lanka's preparation has been meticulous with the team training weeks in advance with imported SG balls in Sri Lanka instead of kookaburras.

Bowlers generate reverse swing far more quickly with the SG ball, a trait which Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma nicely exploited in the Border-Gavaskar series victory over Australia last year.

Zaheer returns from a long injury layoff to bolster India's bowling and the left-arm seamer would again prove crucial for India.

India have played only three Tests so far this year - in March-April- and the interim has been packed with twenty20 games and one-day internationals.

Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, however, believes his team would land on their feet.
"This is the way modern cricket is played," Dhoni said. "I am confident we will be up for the challenge."

Master batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who made his international debut at the age of 16, will mark the start of his 21st year in international cricket in Ahmedabad and has indicated his appetite for runs is undiminished.

"Whenever I am on a cricket field I enjoy it," Tendulkar said.
"There is still a 16-year-old hidden inside who wants to go out and express himself."

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