Galle: Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara on Sunday reminded his teammates to focus on the job at hand and not get carried away by emotions in Muttiah Muralitharan’s swansong cricket Test against India.
“As a team the best we can do for Murali is to make sure we don’t get too overwhelmed or carried away with what’s happening around but concentrate on really giving him a good farewell by playing a great match out there,” Sangakkara told reporters on the eve of the first Test here.
“The danger always is that you get distracted. The key is not to resist what’s happening around you, but just to relax and enjoy it and not worry about so many things. You’ve got to understand it. There is nothing that our team won’t do for Murali. He’s done so much for us this is just a little thing that we can do for him,” he said.
Before the start of the series, Muralitharan, who is just eight scalps away from the 800-Test wicket mark, had announced that he will draw curtains to his illustrious career after the first Test against India.
Sangakkara also welcomed Lasith Malinga’s inclusion in the Test side after almost two-and-a-half years, saying the pacer’s return is a big boost for the home team.
“Malinga’s worked so hard to get where he is now it’s a credit to him that he is out there fit and ready to play,” he said.
“It gives us a huge X factor and that’s really important going into a Test match. He is a guy who can trouble any batsman in the world with his variation. We look forward to him to try and make an impact. If he doesn’t just him being a part of our side gives a big boost,” the Lankan skipper said.
Sangakkara also said that Ajantha Mendis, who returned with impressive figures of 6 for 67 in the practice match against India, will return for the second Test in Colombo after the mystery spinner was left out of the squad for Sunday’s match.
“Ajantha has just shown in that practice game no matter what anyone says about him he is one of the best spinners in world cricket. He will continue to be that and he’s probably found out a few more things that worked for him,” he said.
“If we have guys like him and Lasith all in the mix, it gives us huge chances of beating other countries. When he joins us in the second Test he will have a great chance of proving a point to everyone and making sure that he is up to the task when entrusted with it.
“We’ve got quite a strong squad and different combinations to pick from. The key is to make sure we pick a good combination if we have to take a couple of risks doing that. We’ve got to do it and make sure we get the basics right - put runs on the board and allow our bowlers to try and put pressure on the Indian batsmen,” Sangakkara said.
When asked how the game would cope after Muralitharan’s retirement, Sangakkara said, “cricket, like life, goes on. It didn’t stop for anyone. There’s been (Don) Bradman and (Garry) Sobers all of them have come and gone and cricket’s gone.
“The only good thing is that when players like Murali and the other greats like Bradman and Sobers play and go, they leave cricket a better place.”
Sangakkara was full of praise for Muralitharan, who braved several challenges in his career, the most notable was the scrutiny over his bowling action.
He said although the champion off-spinner had his share of critics, the team always backed him.
“He is one gutsy determined guy. I don’t know who didn’t believe in him or who doubted him. I’ve known there have been many people around the world but for us there was absolutely no doubt. Even before (Ross) Emerson and (Darrell) Hair, we had no doubt in our mind that he was the best bowler in the world, he’s absolutely clean,” Sangakkara said.
“It would be interesting to see how other bowlers around the world could go through such rigorous testing, bowling with a cast on their arm; whether they can stand up to that scrutiny and come away with it, not just with a clean action but a strong mind.
“The eight wickets (he needs to get to 800 Test wickets) is the farthest thing from his mind. For him it’s winning this match for us. We are just going to let him run free and just enjoy himself. If Murali takes eight wickets we will probably win the game,” the Lankan captain added.