Nina Simone sang ‘Its a dawn, its a new day, its a new life for me’. And although Sri Lankas cricket being taken over by the enigmatic Kumar Sangakkara might not be as dramatic, it certainly ushers in a new era for our cricket.
The King, as he is so affectionately known, is a realist. And in a world of cricketing bullies who masquerade as gentleman, Kumar is a throwback to the days when smart, charismatic intellects separated cricketers from the hordes of other sportsmen.
He certainly would not be out of place in a cravat and long tails in a Jane Eyre setting. And England, as it happens, is where he will finally get to take over the national team for his first assignment, in a form he champions.
The team he leads is one of the youngest Sri Lanka has sent to a competition. Apart from the veterans, the average age of 9 of the 15 man squad is around 24. In terms of 2020 experience the Sri Lankans are well behind teams like India or Australia. Add to this the fact that a couple of the players have not even had a wiff of international cricket, let alone 2020 internationals.
These are the problems Kumar has to over come if he is to oversee Sri Lanka out of the ‘group of death’. Pitted against the current ODI world champions and the potentially lethal West Indians, on their day, Sri Lanka has one of the toughest asks if they are to get past the first 5 days of the competition.
To do so, he must rely on a largely in experienced bowling attack. There will be no Chaminda Vass to fall back on, and in his place is who everyone deems is his future replacement – Isuru Udana. The young prodigy who was the domestic 2020 competitions Man of the series has a lot to live up to. This will be his first international stint and hopefully he gets a game to show us what he has got.
Murali will of course add depth along with Slinga Malinga, but the rest of the attack is new and Ajantha ‘Splendid’ Mendis will have a thing or two to prove given his recent form slump.
But the most interesting factor will be how Sangakkara leads. He is often quoted as wanting to allow his team members to individually express themselves. That would work fine with a well oriented team who knows their roles and has enough experience to know what is expected of them.
Kumar does not have this luxury. He has hardly had any time with the team to impart how he wants to run things. Between evacuating Pakistan, playing in a domestic 2020 competition and the IPL Sangakkara has barely had time to work with his young team.
And on the flip side, the veterans as well as the youngster are flying blind as to what Kumar wants them to do.And how he wants it done.
Captaincy was not something Sangakkara was expecting either. Having been second in command to Mahela Jayawardene for so long, no one really thought Kumar would get the opportunity to play the lead man till Mahela retired or quit the game. With both of them being roughly the same age, it may have boiled down to them retiring at the same time.
And although in the end Mahelas resignation was not a surprise, the timing was. It caught a lot of people off guard, not least Sangakkara himself.
So its been a few turbulent months for Sangakkara. But knowing him, he would consider this to be his biggest test yet.
Captain for the first time. A world cup. The shortest and the most hectic format. And stuck between Australia and the West Indies. It seems right up Kumar’s alley.
And for someone who is not opposed to singing out in the middle, it would hardly be a surprise if you catch him on the stump mic ending with
‘And this old world is a new world
And a bold world