COLOMBO: India and Sri Lanka head into Thursday’s second Test in Colombo with the rival captains determined not to be swayed by the emotions surrounding Kumar Sangakkara’s last match.
The 37-year-old Sri Lankan great will bid adieu to international cricket after the match, ending a glorious 15-year career.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews, buoyant by a brilliant 63-run win in the first Test in Galle said the boys wanted to win the three-match series to give Sangakkara a suitable farewell.
“This is obviously an emotional game for all of us,” said Mathews. “Sangakkara has not only been a great servant of the game, but he is a great human being too. We can’t thank him enough for what he has done for Sri Lankan cricket and the team over the past so many years. We thank him truly and wish him all the very best for his future endeavours.”
The skipper knows it won’t be easy for Sangakkara. “It’s going to be a tough game for him as well emotionally. But all good things have to come to an end unfortunately,” said Mathews. “The best thing we can do is try and win the series for him. We have trained hard and are ready to go.”
Asked how Sangakkara had reacted in the dressing room about his impending departure, Mathews said: “He has worked as hard as any of us. I am sure he is determined to sign off with a hundred.”
Sangakkara will want to end an unusually barren streak at the P Sara Oval, including a first-ball duck against Pakistan in June.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli, looking to level scores in his first full series as captain, said the tourists were not distracted by the hype over Sangakkara’s retirement.
“We are certainly not distracted by it,” said Kohli. “In fact, this will be more of a strange situation for Sri Lanka than us. We look up to Sangakkara as a great cricketer. But the emotions in the two teams will be different.”
Sangakkara scored five and 40 against the Indians in Galle, where Sri Lanka snatched a remarkable victory after seemingly heading for a crushing loss.
The hosts had been reduced to 95-5 in their second innings before lunch on the third day, still 98 runs away from avoiding an innings defeat, when Dinesh Chandimal led the recovery with a superb 162 off 169 balls.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath then grabbed seven wickets as India, chasing a modest victory target of 176, were dismissed for just 112 soon after lunch on the fourth day.
Mathews said Sri Lanka have the psychological advantage going into the second Test, but warned his team against taking victory for granted. “We have the edge because we pulled a rabbit out of the hat,” he said. “But we have shoved the win in Galle under the carpet. We know we have to play good cricket again to win because the Indians are a tough side to beat.”
Mathews said seamer Nuwan Pradeep had suffered a hamstring injury, but young fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera was likely to return after missing the Galle Test with a side strain.
India are struggling to replace in-form opener Shikhar Dhawan, a century-maker in Galle who suffered a hairline fracture in his right hand during the match and has been ruled out of the series.
Kohli said a decision to play regular opener Murali Vijay, who missed the first Test with a hamstring niggle, will be taken before the toss on Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2015.
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