Sangakkara preaches controlled agression
It may be the biggest occasion in world cricket, but ahead of the World Cup final against India at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara was as calm and philosophical as he could be.
The dream of a billion souls was fulfilled when India beat arch-rivals Pakistan in the semifinal in Mohali to book their Mumbai ticket, but everyone in the cricket-mad country has now taken fresh guard ahead of the big battle. One thing is for sure; there will be no shortage of cheering from the stands for the home team.
But the question is whether it will be an inspiration or pressure for the home team?
“It cuts both ways I think. Playing in front of your home crowd adds to the excitement, the passion and the pride that you feel but the weight of expectation, when you feel that crowd looking at you to do everything right is also tough,” said Sri Lanka skipper Sangakkara at a crowded press conference yesterday. “We'd love to have played at home but that's not the way it is and we've accepted that and we'll try to make use of whatever conditions are out there for us and I'm sure the Indian crowd are always going to be appreciative of a good game of cricket,” added a diplomatic Sri Lankan skipper.
The wicket-keeper batsman played safely throughout the press conference but assured everybody that his side is ready to face the Indian challenge although he bracketed their opponents as favourites for the final.
“It's hard to pinpoint any weak link of the Indian team. They're a pretty good side. They've obviously been the favourites to win this tournament and they've got to the final and everyone will be looking to the Indians to keep doing that and keep playing as well as they have.
“But I don't think we're underdogs as such I think we're a pretty good unit. But we have to understand the fact that India, for the last year or two years, have been tagged as the favourites by almost everyone to win the World Cup. I'm sure they'll be looking at themselves as favourites too. We're just going to come and play as well as we can,” said Sangakkara.
It seemed that the special innings of Australian great Adam Gilchrist four years back in the 2007 World Cup final in West Indies has been still haunting the Sri Lanka team and Sangakkara said that they will try their best to avoid a repeat of that kind of scenario.
“Four years ago we were outdone by a fantastic innings from Adam Gilchrist. Hopefully we won't allow a repeat of that but even if that does happen, we've got to have the mental attitude to adjust and get back into the game. It's a lot do with how we approach it and what our attitude is going to be tomorrow,” he assured.
When asked about his team's mood with the toughest challenge in hand, Sangakkara said: “Everyone's excited but it's nice to see that it's a kind of controlled excitement. Everyone's relaxed, having a laugh. But also you can see there's a kind of steely determination behind all of that, knowing what a big job comes out of the way tomorrow. World Cup finals are huge occasions, so it's pretty tough to try and do too much really. We just want to hold on to what we have and do what we know we can do.
“I think it's just to use the occasion to lift yourself. The World Cups bring out the best in players, sometimes the worst, I think for us tomorrow is going to be about controlled aggression, not being too emotional, trying to stay grounded and in the moment and just take things as they come, plan and strategise as much as possible, but things can change out there in the middle, so you know, be fluid and do what we know what we can do,” he continued.
It's obvious that the heroics of 1996 under the leadership of Arjuna Ranatunga came to fore when Sri Lanka is on the brink of another historic day but Sangakkara has a different opinion when he was asked whether it will inspire his boys.
“The inspiration has always been there. Everything that's come afterwards has been because of that positive factor. For us, 1996 belongs to that particular team. Since then there've been other teams trying to forge their own way, trying to forge their own path and leave their own legacy for Sri Lanka cricket. I think Sri Lanka has kicked on from that, achieved great heights in cricket and a World Cup's a World Cup, be it in 1996 or 2011. It means the same thing to everyone to win it,” explained the Lankan skipper.
Sangakkara dismissed the notion that his side were not tested so far in the competition. He said: “For us, we are happy we are here. We have had to win games, we are pretty confident we are one of the best sides in the tournament. The wicket looks fantastic. But conditions here are totally different to Sri Lanka, the wickets are pretty even, it looks a pretty decent track and we are going to try to adapt to the conditions we have here.”
One thing is for certain though.
The two best teams in the tournament are going to play the all-Asian final in the cricket's mega event.