Sangakkara lynch pin in Lankan Cup campaign

Published: Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 16:59 [IST]
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Whether behind the stumps or in front of them, it is just difficult to ignore Kumar Sangakkara whose value to the Sri Lankan team has been growing with each year.

His form will be important to his team's World Cup campaign because he is expected to maintain the tempo in the middle order after aggressive openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga.

And Sangakkara has been doing this job commendably in recent years with his attacking approach which eases the pressure on his team-mates in the shorter version of the game.

These are not the days of pure wicket-keepers, as Australian Adam Gilchrist and South African Mark Boucher have proved that a wicketkeeper-batsman always provides more options to the sides.

Sangakkara has also established himself in the same category, as he is safe behind the stumps and a prolific run-getter in front of them, having already scored more than 5,000 runs.

He had spent five years in international cricket when he leapfrogged many of his rivals to find a place in the Rest of the World side against world champions Australia for a three-match Super Series in 2005.

The selectors' faith was not misplaced as the Sri Lankan made two successive half-centuries when many of his illustrious team-mates had been floundering against a strong attack.

Sangakkara may not be as big a star as off-spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan or hard-hitting veteran Sanath Jayasuriya, but is second to none when it comes to delivering under pressure.

He was 22 when he replaced Romesh Kaluwitharana in 2000 and did not take long to reassure the selectors that they had found a batsman-wicketkeeper for the future.

Sangakkara is different from his predecessor in that he does not believe only in thumping the ball. Instead, he concentrates on building an innings with shrewd shot-selection.

His best came in 2006 when he cracked a career-best 287 in a world-record stand of 624 for the third wicket with skipper Mahela Jayawardene against South Africa in the opening Test at Colombo.

He has adapted himself remarkably well to the rigours of one-day cricket, scoring a bucketful of runs without shedding his flair or flamboyance. His aggression has stood his team in good stead in recent years.

Not only bowlers, but also batsmen cannot ignore Sangakkara, considered a shrewd sledger who is always aware of the fine boundary between 'psychological aggression' and 'obscenity'.


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