Kolkata: The influence of shorter versions of the game has had a positive rub-off on Test cricket which can only make the longer version more interesting, feels Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lankan legend and one of the alltime greats of the game.
‘‘Batsmen are trying newer shots in the five-day game like switch-hits which was unthinkable before. If you look at the Sydney Test, someone like Rishabh Pant upped the ante and it was great to see him and (Cheteshwar) Pujara, two batsmen with different mindsets, holding forth for India,’’ Sangakkara said.
The 43-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, a former Sri Lankan captain, has had a long and illustrious career which saw him enrich both formats of the game with tons of runs and dismissals (12,400 Test runs with 38 centuries; 14,234 ODI runs with 25 centuries). Even as he was approaching the twilight of his international career, ‘Sanga’ started leaving his footprint in franchise cricket all over the world - never carrying the baggage of any conservatism honed from his early playing days.
Sangakkara, who is currently serving his second year as the President of Marylebone Cricket Club - took upon the challenge of being a Mentor for Team Abu Dhabi - one of the eight franchises for the fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi T10 League for the upcoming season. Speaking in zoom interview, the articulate cricketer held forth on a wide range of issues from his new role to the growth potential of T10 format, how he sees the role of a mentor in the slam-bang world of cricket to racism in the sport.
“I did read about what happened with the crowd and the Indian team in the last couple of days,” Sanga said, before adding: “Racism in any country in any manner has to be condemned and those responsible should be strongly punished and stern action should be taken against them.”
The aritculate former star said he was fortunate enough to not face any racism in his playing days. “During my time, I was fortunate that I never came across any kind of racial abuse. I can’t speak on behalf of other Sri Lankan cricketers but I personally have not been victimised in terms of racial slurs and that’s true for every country I have toured,” he said.
The selectoral dilemma about choosing Pant or Wriddhiman Saha in the Indian team for the ongoing series has often made headlines - with the former being perceived as a better batsman while Saha being a more technically accomplished pair of hands behind the wicket. Asked what would be his advice to an youngster trying to carve a niche for himself as a wicketkeeper-batsman or batsman-keeper, Sanga’s recipe is simple: ‘‘Practice and plan your game better. If you are comparatively a good wicketkeeper, work on your batting as you will probably come in at number seven. If it’s the other way round, pull up your socks and work harder on your keeping.’’
How does he see the role of a mentor for the Team Abu Dhabi franchise, which has Chris Gayle - almost a contemporary of Sanga himself - and seasoned professionals like Chris Morris of South Africa or Alex Hales of England? ‘‘The most important thing about the role is that you have to keep looking at the background. If there is a bit of hand-holding to be done or a bit of shoulder-tapping, that’s the way to go,’’ said Sanga, who will fly into Abu Dhabi a week before the tournament is held from January 28 to August 6.
‘‘It’s been an exciting opportunity for me. It’s been just a few years for the league but it has already created a buzz in the cricketing countries,’’ he added.