Kumar Sangakkara on song: Cricket has no toolkit, players must be aware and smart | Crickit
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Kumar Sangakkara on song: Cricket has no toolkit, players must be aware and smart

ByAmrit Mathur, New Delhi
Apr 16, 2024 09:09 PM IST

For the modern cricket stalwart, it is about knowing yourself and finding solutions when challenged in match situations.

It was the usual interaction where a past legend speaks to young players to share his experience and offer advice. Yet, when Kumar Sangakkara sat down a group of Rajasthan cricketers to talk cricket, the conversation was sparkling, full of sharp insight and practical wisdom.

Rajasthan Royals coach Kumar Sangakkara interacts with players during a training session (PTI) PREMIUM
Rajasthan Royals coach Kumar Sangakkara interacts with players during a training session (PTI)

Which is hardly surprising because Sanga is modern cricket’s all-round superstar: 28,000 international runs,134 Tests (average 57.40, 38 hundreds), member of the ICC World Cricket Committee, celebrated for the Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture and the first non-British chairman of the MCC in 230 years. As the 360-degree cricket person, Sanga has a stylish head that wears several stylish hats: ace player, broadcaster, coach, statesman.

He combines the traditional with the contemporary and is the old world gentleman cricketer who respects the game’s values but happily embraces change and moves with the times. Articulate and intelligent, his is one of cricket’s most respected voices -- he speaks with honesty, authority and common sense.

Like other greats, eminence sits lightly on Kumar. The young Rajasthan players realised he is approachable and relatable and communicates not as a guru but like a caring elder. During the hour long chat, Sanga’s message was cricket has no toolkit -- there is no formula for success, no magic mantra.

Instead, cricket is a journey of self discovery where each player has to first understand oneself, then train hard and prepare well. For Sanga, cricket is about knowing yourself and finding solutions when challenged in the middle in match situations.

For this, it’s essential to stay in the present because the previous ball, whether smashed through cover or edged to third man, is a mere entry in the score book. Batters and bowlers must be mindful of what the team needs from them. The focus has to be on the immediate, the next ball.

But that, said Sanga, is tough because one must control the mind, which is never easy. Follow a process, a step-by-step preparation consisting of practice, training and repetition. Each net session should address a specific task to become better. Challenge yourself so that you are able to execute in match situations where the decisions you make have a result and a consequence.

It’s important that players follow a routine that works for them. Every player must sort out ways that will make him or her a better player. The process is not limited to hitting or bowling — it’s what you eat, how you sleep, train.

Sanga cautioned against blindly following the methods of Virat or Sachin because all individuals are different.

Responding to a question about handling failure, Sanga put things in perspective saying even the best in the business will impact the game only three times out of 10, the failure rate of the greats is 70%. So, don’t be too hard on yourself, remove negativity and develop coping mechanisms.

During the interaction, Sanga came across as the practical pro who shared sound advice but refused to offer a magical solution. He urged the players to be smart because the game demands they solve problems and find answers to the questions asked by the opposition. Batters have to get through the day, handling a good spell or a tough pitch. Look ugly if you have to but be smart and score runs.

The other overriding message from Sanga was about maintaining perspective. When someone mentioned the life lessons cricket teaches, Sanga put the half volley away promptly. Cricket is only a game, not real life, he said. Cricket teaches you discipline, hard work, team spirit and many other values but the life lessons outside of the game have far greater impact.

In Sanga’s world view, life and its associated values of home, family and elders teach you much more than cricket. Which is why one should strike a balance between cricket and life. He suggested that players respect elders, study well and read books to enlarge their minds.

Sanga believes cricket and life are similar in the sense both have a rhythm and beat -- one has to get the timing right and move with the flow.

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