KKR will win IPL 2012: Sangakkara

DC captain pegs Kolkata franchise to win it all and talks about his team’s travails

By Akshay Manwani
Hyderabad 10 May 2012
One of the finest wicketkeeper-batsmen the game has ever seen, Kumar Sangakkara has had a difficult IPL 2012. The Sri Lankan cricket legend has had a tough time leading his Deccan Chargers, who have been unable to string together any kind of winning run this season. Sangakkara himself has tried every trick to help reverse the side’s fortunes – from trying several playing combinations to even dropping himself from the side. Yet, despite the mounting losses, Sanga has maintained a brave façade and hopes that his side will end the tournament on a winning note. caught up with the affable captain on the eve of his side’s game against the Delhi Daredevils in a chat, which essentially focused on the Deccan Chargers’ season. Sangakkara picked the Kolkata Knight Riders as the team to go the distance based on current form in the competition.

It’s been a tough season for the Deccan Chargers. Your thoughts on it?

I think one of the most disappointing aspects of the season has been our catching in the field. I think there were a lot of catches [dropped] in matches that we should have won; that’s cost us a few games. Another thing is that we have been in winning positions in lot of the games, and games that we should have closed out, we really didn’t hold our nerve. So those are things that we continuously need to improve upon, especially our bowling at the death and fielding skills. Bowling, of course, majority of the games we bowled really well; and batting, we had a solid season, but we didn’t deliver in the crunch moments.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but isn’t it true that given how Kevin Pietersen played for the Delhi Daredevils, you would have been happier to have him in the side?

We’ve lost [Pragyan] Ojha. We’ve lost Harmeet [Singh Bansal]. We’ve lost KP, and KP is a big cricketer. So is Harmeet. He has done a wonderful job for Deccan and he is very useful on selected tracks. Unfortunately, those are decisions that have been made, but we have enough quality in the side to win. Of course, we need to keep looking for the best Indian players, develop them and help them along. One of the other things that we can do is look for a good bowling coach, who can help the youngsters especially a guy like Veer [Pratap Singh], who is a solid bowler, has great potential to keep improving season-by-season and press for a regular place not only in the Deccan side but in the Indian A and other Indian sides. So, there are a lot of aspects that we need to work on and after this season there is a lot of groundwork that needs to be done in terms of recruitment and skill work.

The unavailability of Ishant Sharma was always going to hurt you. But even Amit Mishra, who is coming off an injury into this tournament, hasn’t been able to repeat his good form from last season?

It is very hard when you have Mishy [Amit Mishra] and Ishant not at their best. But to be fair to Mishy, he has had quite a bit of work done surgery-wise, and it’s been a struggle for him fitness-wise to be at his best. He is a fabulous bowler, especially in the shorter version of the game and we value his presence and his contribution very highly. But unfortunately, with his injuries there is only so much that he can do. So hopefully, by next season, he will be fitter and stronger and back to his best.

But, as I said before, the disappointing thing is, apart from all of that, we were still in a position to win six to seven games off all the games that we played, but ended up winning only two… That’s how the T20 game goes. Once you get into that rut of losing those close games, when you have a bad game like we did last night [against Kings XI Punjab], it just seems a lot worse. In actuality, we played some really good cricket, but failed to deliver at crucial times.

Four games left for the Deccan Chargers in the tournament. What is that you hope to achieve despite knowing that there is very little to play for?

The number one thing is to win. That is the most important thing when you play for the franchise because you have to take pride in being a Deccan Charger. How much the franchise looks after you, you have to repay that debt with results on the field and that responsibility is always on us. So, while giving more players opportunity to play, we realistically have to keep building the side towards winning each game.

You also made the difficult decision of not playing yourself against the Mumbai Indians earlier in the tournament. Was it a difficult decision?

Yes, it was a difficult decision. You never want to drop yourself because you take pride in being one of the best players in the world. But on a given day, on a given track, if that’s the best decision for the side against an opposition, then that’s the decision you have to take. It’s different when you have a local Indian captain. Then the decision does not come about because you are one of seven. But when you are one of four, and on a track like Mumbai, where you needed to make that change, it was necessary. So, it is hard, but it is necessary because at the end of the day, you are playing for the team, for the franchise. There is no use in looking at the next season’s contract or at anything like that. Rather, you just concentrate on what is necessary at that point.

Nearly three-fourth of the competition is over. At this stage, which team stands the best chance of going the distance and winning IPL 2012?

To me, the most balanced sides in this tournament appeared to be Delhi [Daredevils] and Chennai [Super Kings]. Unfortunately, Chennai has had a kind of an up-and-down season. Royal Challengers [Bangalore] have an incredible side as well. Kolkata [Knight Riders] have been playing exceptionally well. I think you have to give credit to the way Gautam [Gambhir] has managed to get those guys to gel together. They have some top quality in that side. I think the most important thing when you look at all these sides is the quality of the local Indian players. Delhi has got Viru [Virender Sehwag], [Ajit] Agarkar, Umesh Yadav, Irfan Pathan. So does Kolkata when you look at Yusuf Pathan, Gautam Gambhir, Manoj Tiwary, [Laxmi Ratan] Shukla.

So, if you had to pick one team, which one would it be?

On form, I would say Kolkata [Knight Riders].
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