End of the road for Punjab’s Sri Lankan sons

Over the last three years Sri Lankan cricket fans backed the team from Mohali due to Sangakkara’s and Jayawardene’s presence in the side, and we Sri Lankans cheered on Punjab as though the team was all Sri Lankan.

Match 54 in the 2010 Indian Premier League today between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab will be the last time players from the Punjabi franchise will play together as a team. Which means that today may be the last time we see Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene playing for Kings XI Punjab.

As we watched on TV the Dalai Lama gracing the occasion at the foothills of the Himalayas, we realised with a sense of sorrow that all good things must come to an end.

It is over for Punjab’s two Sri Lankan sons.

Today’s game is Punjab’s last for 2010 and with the contracts up for renewal next year, this may well be the last time Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara will play for Kings XI Punjab.

"With our three-year contracts with the Kings XI effectively terminating after tomorrows match, and with fresh bidding for players by the teams taking place later this year, this could well be the last time that some of us will play as team-mates. Other than pride and the inbuilt competitive nature of being a professional sportsman, there is no pressure on us as we no longer can qualify for the semi-finals. We will therefore look to going out there and enjoying ourselves and hopefully we can celebrate a victory with each other for the last time," Mahela Jayawardene wrote on his blog, emphasising the significance of the match today.

For Mahela his last year with Punjab has been his most profitable. In 2008 he averaged 25.57 with a best of 45 not out and in 2009 he was the franchises best batsman averaging 36.50 and a best of 52 not out. With his average over 40 and a best of 110 not out, in 2010 he was just breathtaking.

Sangakkara has also performed well collectively in the three seasons. He has surpassed 1000 runs at the IPL and is one of a few to have done so.

"As a whole this year has been disappointing," Sangakkara said at the toss in what is likely to be his final game as captain. His term as captain has to go down as deeply disappointing for him, but nothing could be more disappointing than the quality of cricket the Punjabi franchise displayed under his helm this year. Many times they stumbled and lost when victory was close.

One of the drawbacks of being captain is the fact that even if you do well personally you have to take a lot of flak for your team’s losses just as you bask in the glory and take credit for the team’s successes. That is why those who can’t handle criticism turn down captaincy. And Sangakkara has had his fair share of criticism this season.

Winston Churchill once said, "criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

How Kumar Sangakkara absorbs the barrage of criticism he has faced since being appointed as captain of Sri Lanka and captain of Punjab will determine if he is indeed captaincy material. Whilst nothing changes the fact that he is a sensational cricketer, his ability as a captain is still to be uncovered. Captaincy is still a new phase in his life, and being a successful batsman and wicket-keeper does not make him a good captain.

In 2008 Punjab won 10 of their 14 matches and in 2009 they lost seven and won seven. But under Sangakkara’s captaincy they have fared miserably. These are the facts and nothing changes that, not your blind adoration or my criticism.

It will be sad not seeing Mahela and Kumar adorn the grey and red jersey for Punjab, but it is at the same time interesting to see how IPL franchises view their performances over the last three years and what in terms of remuneration will be on offer for the duo for the next three years.

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