Kolkata: Kumar Sangakkara wears many a hat in cricket. The Sri Lankan legend is one of the modern greats of the game who played a major hand in the island nation winning the 2014 T20 World Cup, not to speak of his ongoing role as the first Asian president of the prestigeous Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).
The benchmarks of excellence that he has set for himself will naturally lead to skyhigh expectations from him as the new Director of Cricket of Rajasthan Royals, the 2008 IPL champions, who are desperately looking for a turnaround in their fortunes as the 2021 season gets under way for them on Monday. 'Sanga,' as the 43-year-old statesman of the game is referred to, however, feels that ultimately the players will have to deliver on the field.
''Yes, there will always be expectations,'' said the stylish wicketkeeper-batsman, who has an insider's knowledge of the dynamics of IPL - having played for a number of franchises like the erstwhile Deccan Chargers, Punjab Kings (then known as Kings XI Punjab) and Sunrisers Hyderabad. Speaking during a zoom interaction on Sunday, he observed: ''What you can do is to tick the boxes in terms of preparation but you cannot guarantee as to what's going to happen on the field.
''My job is to get everybody ready for the campaign and then it's upto the players to execute the plan,'' said Sangakkara, who had been quietly playing a mentor to skipper Sanju Samson over last two players. Samson, a young veteran of IPL, can be a delight for the eyes once he gets into full flow - though a degree of inconsistency has come in the way of him sealing the wicketkeeper-batsman's spot in the Indian team.
While the Royals have assembled easily the most enviable collection of overseas players in Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer (who will, however, miss the first part of the campaign with a freak finger injury) and the highest grosser Chris Morris, at least two Indian players - Samson and allrounder Rahul Tewatia will seek to raise their performances in IPL for a potential berth in the Indian team for the T20 World Cup later this year.
Asked whether he would like them to stay in the moment, Sanga noted: ''You have to have your own coping mechanism to handle the pressure. Sanju had been already a superstar of the IPL while he and Tewatia are both cricketers of amazing ability.''
The Royals have, during their journey, fallen back on two modern legends who have served them tremendously as mentor-players in Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid. ''Ever since Dravid left, we did not have anyone of that stature and hence we have got Sanga this time. The accountability for all things cricket now rest with the two 'S' - Sanga and Samson,'' remarked Ranjit Barthakur, executive vice-chairman and one of the brains behind the franchise since it's inception.
An inspirational figure like Sanga in the dugout will surely make a difference but eventually - it's the players who need to win matches.