23 April, 2010 (islandcricket.lk): Last week we invited you to send in your questions for a fan based interview with Kumar Sangakkara. The Sri Lankan captain was kind enough to take on several of those questions before departing for the ICC World Twenty20.
As expected, the response from you was overwhelming and we received a large number of questions. Sangakkara was kind enough to answer as many as he possibly could given the short break between the IPL and ICC World Twenty20. Kumar did receive all your queries and well wishes, although, only some questions were published below. Thank you for participating.
Shaikh Hafeez Hashimdeen from London, UK asks: The middle order has been Sri Lanka’s Achilles Heel for the better part of the last three years, but we are now lucky to have three genuine all-rounders in our side that can clear the boundaries at any given time. I would like to know what your views are on the strengthening of our middle order for the up coming T20 world cup. Would the likes of Maharoof with his new variations and Thissara Perera make good additions to beef up the middle order along side Angelo Mathews? Or do you think the use of a specialist batsman like Jeevantha Kulatunga/Dinesh Chandimal would improve the way we end an innings?
KS: Thissara Perera and Farveez Maharoof currently fall into a similar player category, what you can call bowlers who can bat. That means that they probably don’t fit into our top seven in T20 cricket (unless we change the order due to match circumstances), although, having said that, there is a possible role for Thissara at number seven in this coming tournament if the pitch is seam-friendly. But for Thissara to play in the top seven you also need a little extra depth in the batting at number eight and number nine. Angelo falls into the category of a genuine all rounder and will definitely be in our top seven. A key thing here is that a batting all rounder like Angelo is able to command a batting slot even without his bowling. Likewise, if you are a bowling all rounder like Thissara or Maharoof, you need to be able to justify a bowler’s position.
Our ideal T20 team structure is I believe: six batters, a genuine all rounder and four bowlers. It is great if all bowlers can contribute with the bat but it is crucial that at least two fall into the “bowlers that can bat” category. We feel Chandimal is more of a top four bat. Kulatunga is an opener. We agree we have a healthy looking middle order with the likes of Angelo, Kapu and Jayasinghe to choose from, all of whom can hit a long ball.
Samith Rodrigo from Colombo, Sri Lanka asks: Are you OK with Sanath in the team? If so, will he be given the chance to open, instead of Mahela Jayawardena who is doing well at the top with Kings XI Punjab?
KS: I have to play with whatever team I am given.
Seriously, I think we have an excellent team for the World T20 with lots of options in terms of different combinations. Sanath probably won’t start as an opener because Dilshan and Mahela look like the ideal opening combination right now, but he stands a good chance of playing if the pitches are taking some turn, which is something we expect. So he’s likely to bat in middle order or at number three depending on game situation and his own form.
Malith De Zoysa from Sydney, Australia asks: How has captaincy in the Sri Lankan and Punjab sides and the recent birth of your twins impacted your game?
KS: To be honest, I’m pretty used to a leadership role now. It’s been around 5 years since I was appointed vice captain so the additional responsibility does not impact my game. Thus far I have been able to separate my batting and it’s mainly in the field that my captaincy hat is put on.
The birth of the twins has changed my perspective on life and I guess it has therefore affected my game. Being a father means more responsibility and you realise that your life is no longer your own. I think I’m more grounded now and also more relaxed as children help give you perspective as to what is most important in life.
Ishan Ranaweera from Perth, Australia asks: What do you think Sanath’s role will be in the 20/20 WC? Will he be in the team as an opener or a reserve opener (that is if you go with Dilshan and Mahela, and either of them fails badly) or will he be competing for the place of an all-rounder?
KS: I think the most realistic combination now is that we will open with Dilshan and Mahela. Sanath’s role will depend on the match situation, the conditions and the opposition. He might bat at number three or later in the middle order. He may also open if Dilshan or Mahela are unavailable.
Harshan Peerez from Colombo, Sri Lanka asks: Who is your preferred opening pair in the World T20? I hope u will give a good reply for my question.
KS: Right now it looks like Mahela and Dilshan will be the best combination.
Ameen Azwer from Doha, Qatar asks: In your opinion who is the most suitable person to take over the captaincy after you? I take this opportunity to thank you for your immense contribution to Sri Lanka cricket and wish you good luck in all future endeavours.
KS: Difficult question, but I was impressed with Upl Tharanga’s captaincy at a provincial level with Ruhuna. Angelo Mathews is also a good thinking cricketer and definitely has potential to be a future leader. Thilina Kandamby would be a very capable leader, as he showed with the A-team. It is important though that whoever is captain has his place in the team on merit.
Anushka Tissera from Colombo, Sri Lanka asks: What would be the ideal team composition for us for a T20 Match this tournament? Will we go with more batsman or bowlers?
KS: I think the best combination is six specialist batters, a genuine all rounder and four bowlers, two of who can bat. You need to have considerable batting depth. Then you need the right type of combinations. I feel that the opening pair is critical in T20 cricket and a key component for a successful team. Also, one of the top four bats needs to get a score of 60+ and hold the innings together. Boundaries are useful but you need lots of singles to tick over the innings well. Then your middle order needs a bit of firepower so you can reach the boundary when required in the death overs. In terms of bowling, we feel two spinners and two quick bowlers, plus Angelo’s medium pace, is probably our natural combination.
Gayan Madushanka from Piliyandala, Sri Lanka asks: Why are three spinners playing our T20 squad and why is Chaminda Vass dropped?
KS: We expect wickets that will suit spinners and we also believe spin bowling is very effective in T20 cricket. We also want to have the option of different spin bowling combinations for different opponents. In some cases, for example, Ajantha may be more effective than Suraj. While against other teams, Suraj might be more effective than Ajantha. Of course, this is also determined by form so while we have plans these strategies are also flexible.
In terms of Vaasy, he is staking a strong claim for a recall and has bowled well in the IPL. But bear in mind too that there is stiff competition for places in the squad – Lasith has been brilliant in IPL and is fit again, Kulasekara has been outstanding for us for the last 18 months and Welegedera had an excellent tour of India in trying circumstances.
Finally, you need to also bear in mind that your fast bowlers must all be able to bowl comfortably at the start, middle and end of an innings.
Gayan Sahabandu from London, UK asks: I know that Mathews is drafted in as the all rounder in place of Maharoof. But why not select both of them in our playing eleven? Surely both Mathews and Maharoof are ideal for T20 bowling even though they go for some runs every now and again? It gives us flexibility in both batting and bowling because there is a good chance one of them can come good either with the bat or ball on any given day. And doesn’t it give us depth in our batting and more options in our bowling line up as well?
KS: We don’t see Angelo as a replacement for Maharoof. Angelo is a genuine all rounder who commands a place in our top order as a batsman. Maharoof is currently a bowling all rounder and as such he needs to cement a place in the side as a bowler. Both play different roles in the team, and when you are selecting your team you have to take into account the different roles everyone is expected to play according to the agreed gameplan, or strategy of the side. I think Farveez is probably competing more for Thissara’s place in the squad and he needs to keep working on his bowling and batting after coming back from injuries. We want Thissara, meanwhile, to develop his batting so he can construct innings as well as exploit the powerplay later in the innings and also keep developing his bowling. We need our bowling all rounder to be relied upon to complete his full quota of overs regularly.
Praveen Samarasinghe from Colombo, Sri Lanka asks: We know that in every half a decade Sri Lanka has produced three, or atleast two, world class batsmen. In the 80s we had Sidath Wettimuny, Roy Dias, Dulip Mendis and a few others. Then in the 90s we had Aravinda De Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama, Hashan Tillakaratne. More recently, in the last decade, we had Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu dominate.
Now, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and yourself are dominating and becoming world class performers. But I think that now the time is right for another generation to slowly take over the responsibility.
Do you think that any of the youngsters have shown that they have what it takes to become a world class batsman? Who are the most promising players to take that responsibility?
KS: That’s an interesting question.
I think Upul Tharanga, with some polishing, has the talent to dominate the next decade in all forms of the game. Angelo also has that talent and mental strength. My wildcards might be: Dinesh Chandimal, Chamara Kapugedera if he gets things right, and even Kaushal Silva. Kandamby has talent but is a bit older now so he won’t be playing for a full decade. It all depends on how much work each of the above is really willing to put in to lift their skill levels and whether they have the right character to grow stronger mentally.
Dinesh Joseph from Canada asks: Mendis is a rare talent and should not be wasted. He started with a ‘bang’ but in recent days he has not been performing. I see him as a declining player who is going to lose his spot in the SL side in the near future if he continues like this. Even rookie batsmen are beginning to read him easily. It maybe that he is trying too many things. I do not know what his stock delivery is.
As an excellent batter and a wicketkeeper, have you ever come up with any constructive/practical suggestion to help this youngster improve his game to counter batsmen who can read him easily? Any special training organised for him?
KS: People are reading him and batsmen have also come up with new plans. That was always going to happen. He now needs to evolve, especially in terms of his flight, pace of delivery and his creativity of field setting. But it is also critical for him to do the basics and improve his accuracy of line and length, which was one of his greatest assets. For a spinner the two biggest things are accuracy and the ability to spin the ball. Reading a bowler is one thing but you still have to play the delivery and there will always be natural variation. So as long as you are accurate then batsman reading you is not such a problem. Ajantha needs to apply pressure with dot balls and needs to work on stopping singles.
Shoaib Mohamed from London, UK asks: Having lead the national team for close to a year and also the Kings XI Punjab side during IPL 3, how do you see yourself as a Captain? And also having gone through some real good times and some bad times (in India with the Sri Lankan team and with Kings XI in IPL 3) do you feel that you have grown as a leader? Do you feel better equipped to lead the side today than you did back in June of 2009? Finally, are you enjoying the role of being the Captain?
KS: Yes, I’ve definitely learnt along the way. I’ve made mistakes and with hindsight I’d do some things different. Overall I am pretty happy with the way we have developed and played in the past year. Losing that tough series is India was disappointing and being knocked out of the Champions Trophy early was also a blow. But the team has progressed and we are looking in good shape as we look ahead to the coming year and the 2011 World Cup. Captaining Kings XI was also a great experience. It was a different experience and I learnt a huge amount. When you are leading a national side it is easier as there is team culture already established and players are well-drilled on their responsibilities. The challenge with an IPL is fusing all the different individuals together in a way that allows you to play in a coordinated manner according to an agreed gameplan.
Jaufer Naina Mohamed from the United Arab Emirates asks: It looks like you are running out of ideas in handling the Punjab Team on the field. But, I think you have learned a lot during the course of the tournament and it looks like you are getting things right in later matches. What is the difference in captaining a national Team and an IPL team? How difficult is it?
KS: As I mentioned to Shoaib above, the dynamics are very different. The IPL is a lot about “I” and “Me”. But winning cricket matches requires team work and unselfishness. So one the biggest challenges is making sure you have the right team culture, that the attitude of the players is good, and that everyone is focused on executing the team’s gameplan.
Some franchises managed this better than others during the tournament. Managing players from so many different countries was also an experience and I learnt a lot. You need to understand different individuals and ensure communication is open and decision-making transparent.
On the field, I gradually realised I needed to be more assertive over field setting. In T20 cricket you need to be a lot more creative when setting your fields and at times I was unable to convince the bowlers to think out of the box rather than fall-back on standard fields they are comfortable with.
I’ll give you an example: when bowling at a guy like Dhoni your best bet is to bowl a tight line on his pads to restrict his hitting zone. This means you have to bring up your third man to give you a deep mid-wicket, not a traditional position for a quick bowler. For batsman you need specific plans and have to bowl to your field so you stop singles.
Other insights this year – your opening combination is crucial; one of your top four needs to score 60+ and bat through the innings; you need to score lots of singles.
Neshan Mahendra from Saudi Arabia asks: Why has Chaminda Vass not been selected for the World 20-20? Why has a player of his calibre been overlooked?
KS: Vassy is staking a strong claim after a good performance in the IPL, but there are lots of bowlers competing for a limited number of slots. We have some top-class fast bowlers right now who have been performing well in recent series and tours. Who would we replace out of Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara or Chanaka Welegedera? To get a place back in the team, Vaasy needs keep performing consistently. He also needs to show he can bowl at all stages of an innings – with the new ball, in the middle overs and at the death. I think he still has a chance to break back to the T20 or ODI side but it will not be easy.
Arjun Gopal from Mumbai, India asks: Why was Upul Tharanga not selected in the T20 side? He was in such good form in the series against India and in the Idea Cup. Also with Mahela Jayawardene opening the batting well for Kings XI Punjab how will you accommodate Jayasuriya in the top order?
KS: Upul was unfortunate to miss out as he is batting well. But we already have three guys that can open with Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Sanath Jayasuriya. Plus Dinesh Chandimal or I could provide back-up, if required. When you have a squad of just 15 you can’t really take four openers. That is also the problem for Jeevantha Kulatunga, who has been doing brilliantly for Wayamba as an opener.
Thejana Wickramasinghe from Melbourne, Australia asks: How do you manage to play reverse swinging deliveries with ease? Is it by playing late and judging the movement quickly? Or do u premeditate by observing the seam direction & the shinier side? The latter approach would not be difficult in a test match given that the ball is red and you can easily identify the shinier side and the seam direction, but how do you manage that when playing with the white ball? Do you think that a shuffling stance which you used to have in the beginning of your career helps you to deal with reverse swing compared to your present stance?
KS: Seam direction does not really matter for reverse swing so I try to watch the shiny side of the ball. But that is not always possible. If you can’t then you cannot predict the swing so the safest strategy is to assume the ball will swing back to your stumps. You need to commit your front leg as late as possible and also play with the bat.
Nipunika Fernando from Wattala, Sri Lanka asks: Who are the top three bowlers that you have faced?
KS: The best three I have faced are Wasim Akram, Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne.
Dilini Rupasinghe from Colombo, Sri Lanka asks: Has touring become harder for you since becoming a father?
On a scale of 1-10, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how would you rate your captaincy so far?
A lot of fans have recently criticized you saying that you have lost your cool since becoming the captain. Do you find yourself getting frustrated more often since becoming the captain?
KS: Yes, touring does become harder now that I am a father and I really miss Yehali and the twins. I wish I could spend more time at home. But I have also a responsibility as a player and captain of the national team and that is something I have the greatest respect for.
I don’t think I can give myself a 1 out of 10 score, but I am pretty pleased with the progress the side has made. We’ve had a decent share of success and obviously some disappointment, especially in India. But the team has moved forward as we integrate new players and we are in good shape for the future.
Do I get frustrated more as captain? No. I am the same. People who watch on TV have mentioned that I seem very animated on the field now as captain. But to be honest that has always been the case. That’s the way I play cricket. I am aggressive and passionate. The difference now is that the TV cameras are always on me. TV commentators try to interpret your emotions but they often get it wrong.
Dasith Wijesiriwardena from Melbourne, Australia asks: The secret to Australia’s dominance over the years has no doubt been the strong domestic structure they have. One of the major aspects of it has been the excellent quality of pitches the game is being played on. Fast bouncy pitches help both bowlers and batsman develop their skills better. When we tour overseas even our fast bowlers struggle to find that back of a length because it is out of their nature to play on good bouncy pitches, same can be said about batsman and their lack of foot work. As the captain of Sri Lanka what plans do you have to improve the condition of the pitches in Sri Lanka? Do you have any say in this with SLC?
KS: I agree that Australia have benefited from their excellent bouncy pitches. But replicating such conditions in other parts of the world is not easy. I know we have tried, as have other Asian countries, but pitch conditions are affected by factors beyond the control of curators, like temperature and humidity.
I’d add to your comment that I think one of Australia’s secrets has been their selection policies. They have a very clear policy of performance-based selection. You earn your cap and usually someone makes his debut only after learning the ropes within domestic cricket. As a result players are usually mentally tough when they start their international career. This helps them and the team.
Sachintha Kariyawasam from Panadura, Sri Lanka asks: Say you are a member of a panel selecting some imaginary World Test Xl. There is only one spot left in the team to fill (at number 4). Mehela Jayawardene and Aravinda De Silva are the two nominees. To whom do you cast your vote? (Please give a direct answer and reasons if possible).
KS: That’s easy: Mahela.
Aravinda arguably had more pure natural talent but Mahela has converted his talent far better. Mahela’s record is way ahead in all forms of the game and he has proven himself in all conditions against all opposition.
Zaharan Saldin from Dubai, UAE asks: I always prefer not to see you as a wicket keeper in T20s, which would enable you to communicate more with the bowler. In Chandimal you have a wicket-keeper/batsman, I hope that it is now possible? So will you prefer to take up the role as a fielder instead of being the keeper in the T20 World Cup?
KS: Communication with the bowlers and fielders is fine from the wicket-keeper’s position. I also get to see exactly how bowlers are bowling. It is easier combining the dual role if the players around you know what the team strategies are. That is usually the case when playing for Sri Lanka as we drill into the players the importance of everyone reading the game. It means we are flexible and can adapt quickly.
I will be keeping for the T20 as things stand right now. Dinesh might take over later in his career but he still needs to develop his keeping and the choice of keeper, if you are blessed with two options, should really come down to who will do the best job on any given day.
Ishan Kapuge from California, USA asks: What SS bat do you play with? What type of mentality should I have as an opening batsman? I tend to struggle with nervousness when it comes to games.
KS: My SS bat is custom made. They are brilliant bats. The weight is about 2.7. The willow is grade seven quality, which is very hard to find, and soft-pressed. This means that bats can break. I usually go through about 15-25 bats a year depending on willow quality.
In terms of your nerves, remember that everyone gets nervous. You just need to to put those nerves to the best use. Try to be positive as an opener and focus on putting the bowler under pressure with good running and clean hitting.
Minuri Peiris from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka asks: What do you think about KXIP and Mahela? Maiya is such a legend like you. I think he should open the innings with Dilly in the upcoming T20 WC. What do you think about that?
KS: I agree with you.
Thiru Pathmakumar from Toronto, Canada asks: How much of a say does a captain have in selecting a squad? Or is it all the selector’s job and the captain only chooses the final playing eleven?
KS: I usually get asked my opinion and I discuss things with the selectors. Often we come to a consensus through discussion. In cases we disagree, I sometimes am given the choice I want and at other times the selectors take a different call. I don’t have a formal say or a formal vote.
Ashani Fernandez from Sydney, Australia asks: You have said that selectors shouldn’t mislead ageing players by dragging on their careers. Do you place age before ability? How much is a captain’s job about developing a team for the future and how much of it is about winning today?
KS: The number one priority should, in my opinion, be about winning and I feel performance should be performance-based. In an ideal world youngsters force their way into the team by weight of their performance and then retain their position on performance. While I recognise the team must develop and welcome the arrival of new talent, I am not a fan of just throwing people in at the deep end because they have “potential” or embarking on youth policies. This is often counter-productive for the player as they are forced to try and compete at a time when they are ill-equipped, both in terms of skills and mental strength.
Jeewaka Gamage from Battaramulla, Sri Lanka asks: Can you explain IPL contracts please? Do players get paid by their franchise even if they are not selected to play and sit on the bench for a whole season?
KS: Players are paid even if they don’t play. If they are not selected due to injury then their pay is the same. If they are not selected for any other injury then their pay is reduced very slightly (about 10% of the match fee). If you are injured before the season start and miss the full season then you only get 10% of your annual fee.
Abishek Rao from India asks: Kings XI really struggled this year with you as captain. If you can go back in time will you still accept the offer to captain the side? Do you think being a captain of a team is the pinnacle of a cricketer’s career?
KS: That’s a good question!
The reality is that I was offered the captaincy at the end of last year and on several occasions I refused it. Finally, after many discussions with the franchise owners and CEO, as well as Yuvi, I came to understand that my acceptance was necessary this year for the team to go forward. So in the end I had little option but to take the captaincy. That being said, I was naturally disappointed having taken the responsibility that we did not fare as well as we had hoped. Our performances were the direct result of us not being able to coordinate our batting and bowling departments to complement each other. We were inconsistent throughout and our bowling was too weak. We did not close down a handful of games we should have won and that was very frustrating.
Kumari De Mel from South Korea asks: How hard is to be away from family for several months at a time? Does it ever take it’s toll on your family life and relationships?
KS: It is very hard. For example, right now, as I answer these fan questions, I am also packing my bags for the Caribbean. It’s sad to be leaving home again so soon. I’ve just returned from India, where we were since early March, and have slept at home in my own bed for only three nights! Tomorrow I will have to say goodbye to the twins and Yehali for another 6 weeks. It is harder I think for Yehali, but she is brilliant and has always been supportive. She understands that right now cricket is a responsibility that is a priority.
Sakunthala Fernando from Dehiwala, Sri Lanka asks: Can you tell me if the bat you are using is your first choice or are you forced to use it because of commercial agreement?
KS: I do have a commercial agreement with SS, but they make brilliant bats and I like the fact that my sponsor is a specialist cricket bat maker. SS make bats for many of the world’s top players – who add different stickers – and some leading international brands outsource their bat making to them. I have worked with the owner of SS, Jatin, to custom make a bat for me over the years that is superb. I love it.
Anandan Selvarajah from London, UK asks: During the T20 WC last year you spoke in Sinhala at the finals presentation. Do you speak any Tamil? Will we hear you address Tamil cricket fans that support you?
KS: I’m afraid that while I know a few words of Tamil my pronunciation is so bad that I could not speak Tamil in public. I wish I could and if so I would happily speak publicly in English, Sinhala and Tamil.
Althaf Ahmed from Wellington, New Zealand asks: Why do you keep playing the reverse sweep? How many runs has the shot got you?
KS: Not many runs so far to be honest! And I think you are right that the time has come for that shot to be put in the locker.
Asanka Gomez from Wellawatte, Sri Lanka asks: What is the ideal retirement age for any player?
KS: I don’t think there is any one age but generally I think Test cricket can be played until 37 – longer if you are exceptional. In ODI’s, 36 is around the upper limit.
Right now I can’t see myself playing much past 35 or 36.
Tina Pillai from Manchester, United Kingdom asks: What is your favourite food? What is your favourite restaurant?
KS: I love Sri Lankan rice and curry. My favourite restaurants are The Gallery Café and Nihonbashi, both of which are in Colombo.
Kevin Montgomery from Perth, Australia asks: What is the brand of your helmet? Is it available to buy?
KS: The brand is Ayrtek. The helmets are very light and safe. Here is their website: http://www.ayrtek.com/home/
I started to use them because I liked them and not because of any commercial agreement (although the owner is now kindly sponsoring my old school, Trinity College in Kandy).
Niraj Dias from Sri Lanka asks: You always talk of transparency and openness in your team but when you were vice captain Marvan Atapattu claimed that he was not informed once why he was sidelined and made to carry drinks during the World Cup 2007. What do you say to such hypocrisy?
KS: I spoke with Marvan regularly during the 2007 World Cup and both he and everyone in our leadership group understood, very clearly, my stance on the issue. The final decision-making unit are ultimately responsible for conveying their decisions and the rationale for it. My task as vice-captain was to provide support to the captain and coach, provide them with ideas and a sounding board for their decision-making.
I would add that since Marvan and Mahela’s captaincy there has on the whole been far greater openness and transparency than ever before within the team. That is a team culture that I believe is very healthy and I have tried to continue this.
Keerthi Sampath from Italy asks: What is the one country that you love touring and why?
KS: I like touring most countries, but South Africa is one of the favourites. It is a beautiful country with great food and really hospitable people.
Wathsala Abayaratne from Sri Lanka asks: How hard is it to captain a side where you have players included that you have made clear you do not want in the side? As captain shouldn’t you refrain from publicly expressing your personal likes and dislikes in order to keep team unity and harmony intact before a world cup?
KS: Sometimes I might not agree completely with the selection thinking but I have to get on with it. I don’t make public comment about the selection of individual players and you should not believe all that is written in the media about me being unhappy or happy about the inclusion of different players. More often than not such comments are inaccurate. However, on the point of transparency, I do believe it is healthy for me and the selectors to explain the thinking or rationale behind different decisions. It is useful for players, the media and fans to understand the reasons why different combinations are being used.
James Dahanayake from USA asks: None of Sri Lanka’s top three batsmen are big hitters. Dilshan, Mahela and you are not known to thump the ball out of the park. Looking at our T20 batting line up we appear to lack the fire power to consistently trouble good T20 teams. It is inevitable that we will find ourselves three down for less than 50 regularly because you three are forced to take risks because you lack a guy at the top to take on the opposition during power plays.
Why have you not tried n the last several months to get a guy like Jayasuriya back to form? Why do you keep pushing him down the order and putting him down when he is out? Clearly you can’t afford to do that?
KS:I disagree with you slightly because you don’t have to be a big hitter to score quickly, especially in the top four. Mahela, for example, had a strike rate of around 140 when he opened the innings in this year’s IPL and he is not known as a “big hitter”. Dilshan has scored consistently quickly in the past 12 months and my strike rate has been healthy as well. We also have Sanath as well as an option. The key to building big totals in T20 cricket starts with your openers. A successful opening combination makes a huge difference and that’s why our policy will be to play the two openers in best form. They need to make use of the Powerplays to build-up momentum and build a platform. If you lose early wickets it can be very difficult to rebuild to the lack of time. One of the top four needs to aim for a 60+ score and hold the innings together. The rest can bat around him. The best examples of this are Sachin and Kallis in this year’s IPL. Contrary to what you might think, stats also show that it is vital in T20 cricket, just as it is in ODI cricket, to score lots of singles. Then it is useful in the middle order to have some traditional big hitters to capitalise on the platform laid by the top order.
Asitha Horanage from Melbourne, Australia asks: After Mahela took over captaincy and later you took over there appears to be a division created in the team. The Colombo ‘cool’ crowd on one side and the rural village youth and seniors on one side. How do you hope to bridge this gap?
KS: To be honest, I think that is nonsense (and not just because I am from Kandy!). Since Marvan and Mahela’s tenure as captains we have had one of the most closely-knit dressing rooms in world cricket. There is a fantastic team environment that welcomes and supports players of different ages and backgrounds. We now have a team culture that is open and egalitarian. Everyone is encouraged to participate in team discussions and take responsibility. There will always be media gossip and idle talk about team rifts and divisions in Sri Lanka, but invariably there is a source and that source has a vested interest. We just ignore that and concentrate on maintaining the team policies and team culture that Marvan first introduced in the John Dyson years and Mahela continued afterwards.
Warren Suppiah from Trinidad & Tobago asks: We are looking forward to your arrival in the Caribbean this month! My question is, how heavy is your bat? Does a heavier bat make you hit it far?
KS: My bat is about 2.7 pounds, which is quite light. But it has a lot of wood. The trick is getting the balance right so it picks up smoothly. We also use softly pressed willow nowadays that helps the ball travel further.
Gregory Perumal from Australia asks: Why don’t we see more minorities playing in the Sri Lankan side? There is a school of thought that from as early as first eleven sides in school cricket players from ethnic minorities are discouraged from pursuing cricket? Looking at most of the school coaches and school sides, it is only one ethnic group that is given the chance to play school cricket and then they are the only ones to take on club cricket. Do you see that trend? Should SLC take on school coaching and selection to ensure that more kids from minorities get fair representation?
KS: I agree it is hugely important that cricket is encouraged in all communities. In that regard, the efforts of SLC’s coaching program in the outstations in recent years is really important. They are trying to make cricket accessible to kids all around the island. There are also great initiatives from some parties in the private sector, like the Coke Pathway Program and some charities, like the Mahela Foundation have been helping kids recently in Trinco and Matale. In terms of selection discrimination at a school level, I cannot really comment on whether this is happening to be honest. I hope not. However, if it is, I don’t think the solution is SLC playing a bigger role in schools. The schools themselves need to hold themselves accountable and take responsibility for ensuring there is a level playing field for all not matter what caste, creed or ethnicity.
Muhammed Anzar Akbar Ali from Oman asks: Kumar you are the most pleasing batsman. The way you bend on one knee is pleasing on the eyes. I want to know when you were young who inspired you? Like which batsman moulded your style?
KS: I was inspired most by my parents. I did not really mould my style on any player but I admired Viv Richards.
Trevin Sebastian from Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka asks: Which IPL franchise would you like to play for if you had the choice?
KS: Despite losing this year, I really like Kings XI. The franchise has been really supportive and Mohali is great. Right now I hope to go back there but let’s see what happens.
Prasanna Silva, New Zealand: What is the highest level of education you have completed? Commentators say you were studying to be a lawyer, did you complete?
KS: I finished my A levels and I am half-way through a Law Degree that has now stalled completely.
Kumar Guruge from Sri Lanka asks: During the last India tour in 2009 catches were dropped off Mendis and then his shoulders slumped. Is it fair to drop the young man in the very next match?
KS: As mentioned above, Ajantha needs to evolve but he remains a key bowler for us. Regarding India tour, catches were dropped off several bowlers sadly. Sometimes selection calls are difficult. But remember this is international cricket and tough calls are necessary. You can’t just play the wrong bowler because you are worried he might be upset or lose a bit of confidence. A player needs to be mentally strong and Ajantha is strong enough to cope with being left out. He is not a baby!