Sangakkara learning to live with Lahore memories
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Sangakkara learning to live with Lahore memories

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said that while life for his side would not be the same after the attack on their team bus in Pakistan it would not stop them from playing international cricket.

cricket Updated: Jun 01, 2009 07:44 IST

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said that while life for his side would not be the same after the attack on their team bus in Pakistan it would not stop them from playing international cricket.

Sangakkara's men have arrived in England for the ICC World Twenty20 after a particularly torrid few months.

In March, their bus was attacked with bullets and grenades in Lahore as they travelled to the Gadaffi Stadium for the second Test against Pakistan in an incident that saw several players, including wicket-keeper/batsman Sangakkara hurt, and eight Pakistanis killed.

And their landing in England was overshadowed by British newspaper reports of Sri Lankan government 'war crimes' against the separatist Tamil Tigers, which led to the cancellation of a trip to the Oxford Union.

"It was funny getting back on a bus from the airport to go to hotel when we arrived in England," Sangakkara explained to reporters at a captains' press conference at Lord's here on Sunday.

"After Lahore, we went through a terrible time but what we've realised is that life goes on.

"We've got to play cricket, cricket for us means normalacy."

Sangakkara, who might have been a lawyer had he not come good as a cricketer, was realistic about the extent of sport's role in surmounting political problems - particularly after the Lahore attack which led to Pakistan becoming a 'no-go zone' for international cricketers.

But nor was the erudite 31-year-old dismissive of the role that cricket in particular plays in his country's culture.

"Cricket in Sri Lanka has been that one unifying force over the years," he said. "It's been the passion of the entire country, cricket transcends religion, race and politics.

"I think that's the greatest thing we represent. As a team we are representative of all the ethnicities and religions that are there in Sri Lanka and we get on fine."

Sangakkara, who was due to address the Oxford Union, the University's debating society, with teammate Muttiah Muralitharan, said the team had shown great "mental fortitude" in resuming international cricket.

However, he admitted life had changed for the Sri Lankan players. "When we came here we were aware of increased security around us," he said.

"We requested after Lahore for a security expert was on tour with us because we know terrorism is a worldwide problem.

"In Lahore, the bubble burst. We thought that because we are an Asian team, and we are cricketers we would be safe in Pakistan. We were way off the mark and naive."

Sangakkara said there was a straightforward reason why the Oxford Union visit had been called off.

"Since then the Oxford arrangements were not made known to our security team well enough in advance that was why it was cancelled."

Sangakkara, who said the war had touched "every single person" in Sri Lanka, was optimistic about both his country and his cricket team's future.

"We've experienced first hand terrorism in Lahore and we've had a bloody war for 26 years in Sri Lanka that has come to an end. It presents a great opportunity for our country to move forward as one nation and one people.

"It's a weight of the shoulders of everyone in Sri Lanka. Twenty-six years is a long time. I've grown up with it. Now it's a great opportunity for us to move forward. Everyone in Sri Lanka is looking forward to that."

Sri Lanka, who has warm-up matches against South Africa at Lord's on Wednesday and against Bangladesh at Trent Bridge on Thursday, finds themselves drawn in a group with fellow Test nations Australia and the West Indies.

Nevertheless, they remain strongly fancied to qualify for the Super Eights and Sangakkara, whos team features a mix of newcomers and veterans such as star batsman Sanath Jayasuriya, insisted their attention was now soley on cricket.

"I think talking about Lahore over and over again has helped us in a way. It's good to remind ourselves of our mortality; sometimes we're led to believe otherwise by the press. The only challenge for us is to get used to the conditions and do it quickly."

First Published: Jun 01, 2009 07:42 IST