Port of Spain : Jamaica Tallawahs star batsman Kumar Sangakkara has nothing but positive memories from his previous stint in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), but the Sri Lanka superstar is keen to create a new legacy when he links up with the Tallawahs squad for the fourth edition of the tournament.
Sangakkara is one of the most fluent batsmen in recent history across all three formats. An ICC World T20 champion in 2014, where his 52 not out earned him the man of the match award in the final victory over India, the left-handed wicket-keeper batsman scored more than 28,016 international runs at an average of 57.40 (in 134 Tests), 41.98 (in 404 ODI’s) and 31.40 (in 56 T20I’s). He has also claimed 609 catches and a further 139 stumpings in international cricket.
The Tallawahs will start their CPL campaign with an away clash against St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots on July 2 and Sangakkara knows that this will be one of the most competitive campaigns to date on all fronts as Chris Gayle’s men bid to wrestle the title back to Jamaican shores.
In an exclusive interview with www.cplt20.com, the Sri Lanka legend reflected on the 2013 campaign, why playing in the CPL is special, on why the CPL’s decision to play matches in USA is a “great thing” and his excitement about returning to the Tallawahs after a three-year hiatus.
Reflecting on his memories from the 2013 CPL-winning campaign, Sangakkara said, “I remember going into the Tallawahs knowing that it was a great team with Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and (Chadwick) Walton all in there. We had some great overseas player in Murali (Muttiah Muralidaran) and a few others.
And just going to the semis and the finals, and the business end of the tournament. So there’s no pressure on me to go out there and perform! I just remember getting to Trinidad, where the matches were, and just absorbing the atmosphere. It was exactly what you’d expect of a T20 tournament in the West Indies. It was just, you know, a lot of passionate followers, a lot of people having fun and West Indies followers know a lot about cricket. They know their cricket very, very well. And it was just the most exciting atmosphere to play in. It helped that we won the semis and the final. Paul Nixon was coach at that time and it was a great dressing-room, a lot of fun, relaxed cricket but a lot of good cricket. So I’m really looking forward to going back.”
On his decision to return to the CPL, Sangakkara insisted, “It’s not really a question of you making a decision of going into CPL. You put your name into the auction and you wait to see whether they’re actually interested in you and getting you over there. There were a lot of different reasons, starting from the fact that the Leagues around the world are quite lucrative. Then of course you have the fact that it’s T20 cricket and everyone loves playing T20 cricket. The fact that when you are a cricketer and you continuously compete, playing in these leagues gives you a lot of exposure, a lot of experience and you also play with a lot of different players in a lot of different set-ups. It also helps you grow as a cricketer and as a person. And the other point is that it’s the West Indies. It’s the Caribbean. It’s calypso cricket and the initial year of any tournament, in a franchise format, is a difficult one. And I think that the West Indies now, over the last three or four years, has built a fantastic brand in the CPL.
And to have been involved in the initial stages is great. So there’s always a variety of reasons that you go and play and, for me, it was a mixture of all those reasons. I know the players quite well. Most of the West Indies guys I’ve played with are very easy to get on with. They’re fantastic natural cricketers in their own right, but also very good people. So it was always a ‘win-win’ coming to play in the CPL.”
On returning to play with the Jamaica Tallawahs, the 38-year-old said, “I am very happy to be back at the Tallawahs. I have some great memories, like I said, and one of them was Gerard Butler turning up in the dressing-room, getting a helmet and a pair of gloves on and swinging a bat, having a chat and a laugh with us. That was exciting! It was a bit surreal to see him in a cricket dressing-room rather than on screen. But the entire mixture of that whole glitz and glamour of T20 cricket – when you have a tournament like that, the vindication of all that effort is the quality of cricket on the field. And I think that’s what really stood out at the end of that entire tournament. Everyone had fun, everyone had a lot of non-cricketing stars that came along to watch the cricket, who had a love for the game. And there was a lot of passion from the followers. But the stand-out was the cricket. In any tournament, if the cricket you put on the field is the best you can display, it goes a long way in establishing the tournament as a marquee event.”
Talking about the Tallawahs squad, Sangakkara said,”I think the rest of the squad is very good. You have the ‘Universe Boss’ (Chris Gayle) playing for us so that helps! Andre Russell has been an amazing player in the shortest versions of the game. He’s an unbelievable athlete and I remember in that semi-finals and final, when I did play, he was the defining player of the tournament. He won us those two games, along with Chris in the finals, so you have a great core. You have Chadwick Walton, Shakib Al Hasan and you have Alex Ross from Adelaide coming in and Imad Wasim from Pakistan. So, the squad of local and foreign players is a nice mixture. But in any tournament, the real difference in the squad is made by the majority players who are the local players. So from our left-arm spinners to our all-rounders, to the fast bowlers and to the great West Indians like Chris and Andre, it’s going to be a very good collective effort if you’re going to get to the final and maybe win again. That’s the ambition and I’m sure everyone will have a great time trying to get there.” (ANI)