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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.
IPLT20.com 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?
Their bowling has been the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s bane in IPL 2012. They have struggled to pick early wickets and have left their star-studded batting line-up with too much work to do. When they prepared to take on the Mumbai Indians at Wankhede, the stress was clearly on not allowing the opposition to get off to a flying start. With that in mind, they rattled the MI top order, leaving the hosts in tatters at two for two.
And it was Vinay Kumar who picked up both those wickets, in the first over that he bowled.
After RCB’s nine-wicket win, he spoke to iplt20.com about the importance of the win given the net run-rate scenario. He also mentioned how the pressure of having to win all their games is bringing out the best in the team.
This was a convincing victory for you guys, but every match from this point forward is a must-win game.
It was a very important game for us and we pulled it off. Now we stand in the fourth place on the table. It’s really good.
Sometimes, is it a blessing in disguise to be in a situation where you have to win all the games?
Yes, it is. We were in a similar position in South Africa and we won six or seven games in a row from there. We know how to come back from such [a] situation and we are taking each game as a knockout game. RCB have struggled with the ball, especially in the powerplay overs. Was special stress put on changing that today?
In the last few games, we were not getting wickets in first six overs, and we discussed this a lot in the team meeting. We got it right today, in a very important game. I was glad to pick two wickets in my first over. This wicket does a bit in the initial overs and becomes a very good batting track later on. We were lucky to get early wickets.
You are just back from the injury. Are you happy to get your rhythm back?
I have been bowling well, but in this format sometimes even if you bowl well, you get hit for runs. Due to a small niggle I couldn’t play the last game. I am happy to come back in a crucial game and perform well.
You have been paid one million dollars for a season. Does that put extra pressure on you to perform?
Sometimes it does play on my mind. However, if you keep thinking about it, you just can’t do well. People often write derogatory [things] on Twitter about a player not deserving the money he’s been paid. They don’t understand that it’s very easy to comment from there but being a bowler and performing is very difficult in this format. Even Dale Steyn – world’s best bowler – went for 23 runs in an over in the last game. I don’t think much about the amount I have been paid, I just go there and try to give my best.
The team management investing so much in you also shows the faith they have in your abilities. Does that push you to improve further?
For first three years, I was with RCB and then went to Kochi [Tuskers Kerala] and now I’m back here again. It’s nice to be home and it’s good that the management is supporting us.
RCB haven’t done too well at home.
I would say that IPL is a rollercoaster ride. You can’t really predict the result of the game, so you just have to give your best. We lost a few games at home, but now the team morale is high and we are aware of the fact that we have to win all the matches to make it to the playoffs.
You’ve played out some close games. Is the team happy to win one convincingly?
There have been a lot of last-over games in this IPL, but we won this game with 12 balls to spare. This win will help us with our net run-rate as well.