Arjuna Ranatunga is not one to shy away from making his point. The island, and parts of the cricket world, may be on a nostalgia trip as Sri Lanka’s batting great, Kumar Sangakkara, gets ready to go into retirement, but the World Cup-winning captain believes it is long overdue.
Ranatunga praises Sangakkara’s contribution to Sri Lankan cricket, but criticises him for carrying on, having planned to quit even before the World Cup. While many in Sri Lanka fret over the future of the team, Ranatunga believes it will actually let skipper Angelo Mathews be his own man.
Ranatunga’s hectic election campaign may have prevented him from following cricket activities closely ahead of the Test series against India, but the subject gets him going. "He has been a great servant for Sri Lankan cricket, but when the time comes, everyone has to go.
"I’m sure he might have taken the right decision, but I feel when he was trying to take that decision he should have done that and not waited till now."
Sangakkara is the fifth-most prolific Test batsman (12,305 runs) and his 38 Test centuries are fourth in the all-time list, a sensational career when one takes his keeping (144 victims) and impact on the game into account.
But Ranatunga is not impressed that Sangakkara has chosen to play only in the first two Tests. "I respect him as a cricketer, he has done a great job for Sri Lanka cricket. But I don’t agree with Sanga playing only two Tests and staying away from the last one. If he is going to play, he should play the entire series without hampering some of the younger guys."
On the subject of retirement, Ranatunga believes it should never take away focus from the game. "It is a very important series for Sri Lanka, we are building a side and so is India. When I retired, I never wanted a farewell. It was a tough decision, but I made the announcement on the first day of the Test series."
He felt the departure of stars like Mahela Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan would only help younger players and skipper Mathews. "We have a lot of young talent coming up. Angelo will be a far better captain than with Sanga, Mahela and Dilshan around. I have seen him captain, not much, but I have a lot of respect for the way he has handled some of the things.
"With the talent we have, it won’t be that difficult to win another World Cup."