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‘Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene have big role in Sri Lanka Cricket’

Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala believes former stalwarts Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have key roles to play for the development of the country’s cricket.

cricket Updated: Mar 12, 2018 18:03 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, Colombo
Kumar Sangakkara,Mahela Jayawardene,Sri Lanka Cricket
Mahela Jayawardene (R) and Kumar Sangakkara were the spine of the Sri Lankan batting line-up for a long period.(AP)

Thilanga Sumathipala has donned many roles in his association with cricket. The 53-year-old president of Sri Lanka Cricket headed the body in 1997/98, 2000/01 and 2003/2004 as well and was also International Cricket Council director from 1998-2000. (India vs Sri Lanka 4th T20 blog | Scorecard)

In a chat, Sumathipala recalled his association with the late Jagmohan Dalmiya, the former Board of Control for Cricket in India president as well as the country’s two stalwarts, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

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Excerpts:

You shared a long association with Jagmohan Dalmiya. What is the one incident you recall that strengthened your bond with him?

My bond with Jagmohan Dalmiya grew stronger during the 1996 World Cup when Australia and West Indies decided not to come to Colombo following the bomb attack in February 1996. Dalmiya formed a team to show that security was good in Sri Lanka. We had a meeting in Kolkata following the blast. We had signed for the World Cup and sponsors were on board. I was facing a huge challenge. So, Dalmiya put together a team consisting of India and Pakistan players and made the XI. He demonstrated amazing leadership.

Dalmiya had apparently sorted out the India vs Pakistan confusion when they came to Colombo. Can you highlight that?

Once we put the team together -- Dalmiya headed the PILCOM (Pakistan, India and Lanka Committee for the World Cup). We had a problem picking the XI. Mohammad Azharuddin came and said, “Hey bhai, how can I play under a Pakistan captain’? Wasim Akram then charged in and said to Dalmiya, “Saab, I cannot play under an Indian captain.” So, Dalmiya called Intikhab Alam and asked ‘who is in charge of the team?’ in a stern voice. The manager, replied Intikhab. So he announced, under a Pakistan manager, captain must be Indian. He totally resolved the problem. Alam was to manage and Azharuddin was to captain.

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Recently, there have been reports of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara criticising the structure of cricket in Sri Lanka…

We have produced Sangakkara and Mahela from this system. This is the structure where they have made their name in cricket. If you think the structure was wrong, what was wrong with them? Certain people are trying to show that we are not going along with what they are saying.

What are Sangakkara’s and Mahela thoughts on the system in Sri Lanka?

There are two different schools of thoughts. Mahela is saying improve the Lanka Premier League. We are supportive of some of his remarks. Sangakkara is advocating on assisting us in some other area. They cannot be a full-time coach sitting with the national team because they are so much in demand. It will take some time. They have a role to play. They are still playing and coaching. We will welcome them with open arms.

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Will Sri Lanka be ready to host the IPL in case the tournament moves out of India in 2019 due to elections?

We have six international stadiums, most of them are flood-lit. It is up to the franchises. I don’t have any knowledge of them moving out next year. When one looks at the TV timing and convenience, Sri Lanka is best suited.

First Published: Mar 12, 2018 18:03 IST