Galle: In a fitting tribute to Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews spoke of Don Bradman and the retiring great in the same breath, calling him the most "consistent batsman he has ever seen".
"We are very thankful for Sanga the way he has performed over the last 15 years and he is easily the most consistent batsman I have seen. I haven't seen the great Donald Bradman but Sanga is easily the most consistent batsman I've ever seen. We learnt a lot from him up to now and he is ready to teach us and pass on his experience, and we have benefited a lot from him," Mathews said about the retiring legend ahead of the first cricket Test against India starting here.
The Lankan Test captain is confident that they can make Sangakkara's farewell memorable by winning the series. "We are all geared up and we want to give him (Sangakkara) a good farewell. He's been a great servant for Sri Lankan cricket and for the team and we are very thankful to him for what we are today.
"Our team is in a better position because of contributions from players like Sanga, Mahela (Jayawardena), Thilan (Samaraweera) and TM Dilshan. So now it's up to the younger generation to take responsibility and show what we are capable of," said Mathews. When asked if there is a chance Sangakkara could play the third Test if the series is tied 1-1 going into the SSC match, Mathews replied, "I wished so but unfortunately he's calling it a day and we all have to respect that decision. Good things have to come to an end and Sanga has decided it's time up for him."
"It's going to be a tough ask," he added, talking about the transition.
"It's quite easy to captain with players like Sanga and Mahela in the side. They had enough experience and now it's going to be a fairly tough job in this transition period with new faces and it's going to be a tough challenge for all of us. "We have got to be patient as the younger guys are very skillful. It's just that they need exposure in the international arena and have yet to learn, to learn you have to play and be patient with them and hopefully they can take the team where it wants to be."
Mathews said that the 1-2 series loss against Pakistan would not have any bearing on the India series. "Although we didn't win the series against Pakistan, we played good cricket especially in the Test series," said Mathews. "We fought really hard and it is just that we didn't hold onto the third Test. India is a tough opposition to beat regardless of playing at home or away. They have a really good balanced team and we have to play good cricket to win against them."
The islanders will be under pressure after losing the last series at home too. Injuries to their fast bowling unit have hampered their preparations, even as the young batsmen are trying to stand up and impress. "We got the same attack as in the last series. But the mind set has to change," said Mathews. "We got 377 in the last Test and they had to break all the records to get there and they did. We didn't expect that but it's a lesson learnt. I don't know if we could have done anything better at that point. It's just that somebody needs to raise their hand and try and get us a few more wickets."
The skipper stressed on having a consistent attack. "We have played more or less with the same attack but unfortunately a couple of guys are injured. But the same attack has been playing for the past couple of years.
We have won Test matches against Pakistan and in England. Mathews was all praise for India's batting line-up. "India is quite inexperienced when it comes to batting but they are very skillful and good players. We have to bowl in the right areas to get them out," he added. It is going to be a great challenge for the Lankan skipper who, in recent times, has been the leading batsman for his side. Even after suffering a ligament tear in his left hand, he will be playing through the pain for he is indispensable for the Lankan team.
"I have only played a few Tests upto now and it's going to be my 50th Test," said Mathews. "You learn day in, day out with the help of guys like Sanga, Mahela and I learnt quite a lot when it comes to batting. I always look at myself as a batsman and not as a captain when I am batting and try to maintain that all the time. I try to give my 100 percent with bat or ball. Fortunately for me, it has been good for the past few years."