Sangakkara optimistic Sri Lanka will stage England series despite attacks
AFP – Kumar Sangakkara believes Sri Lanka will stage England’s scheduled tour of the island next year despite safety concerns caused by the Easter Sunday terror attacks.
More than 250 people were killed and nearly 500 wounded in a series of attacks claimed by Islamic State on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on April 21.
England are due to play Tests in Colombo and Galle next March but the attacks have led to fears Sri Lanka could join Pakistan as a no-go area for major international sides.
Pakistan have been forced to play the bulk of their home games in the United Arab Emirates since 2009, when armed militants targeted Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore.
Sri Lanka great Sangakkara, who will later this year become the first non-British president of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), lamented the fact some Pakistan players had never played a Test in their own country and hoped his own nation would not face a similar fate.
"I was in the bus in 2009 when the Sri Lanka team got attacked and I understand the reservations and the security concerns that come after such an incident or even as an observer looking from the outside in," Sangakkara told reporters at Lord’s on Thursday.
"We need a very open conversation with the necessary security aspects that are in place, make sure there are independent assessments done, that the boards connect openly and fully," he added.
"We always talk about cricket transcending politics and that has to be the case with tours, as long as security and safety is assured, and there is an honest commitment from every country to put those security measures in place."
He said Sri Lanka, which endured a long and bloody civil war until 2009, had managed to host cricket tours, including a World Cup "in very trying circumstances" in the past.
– World Cup tips –
Sangakkara was speaking just a week from the start of the World Cup, with hosts England opening the tournament against South Africa on May 30.
One of the best batsmen of his generation and twice a losing World Cup finalist, Sangakkara has been impressed by the way Eoin Morgan’s England side have climbed to the top of the one-day international rankings since their first-round exit in Australia four years ago.
"Since 2015 England have changed their mindset about how they play their cricket and that has revolutionised their performances," Sangakkara said.
"It’s a strange kind of shift. When you’re young in Sri Lanka the coaching methods are very English, what you wear, how you conduct yourself… everything about the game is very much old school.
"Then the shift starts later on in your teen years when the Asian genes kick in — the supple wrists and experimentation, flamboyance, panache — not restricting that natural ability with too much technique. In England now you see that shift towards vibrancy and individuality. It’s been great to see."
But Sangakkara, who also acknowledged the strength of India and Australia, highlighted the World Cup threat posed by the West Indies and Pakistan.
"The West Indies are an incredible T20 side and it’s great to see they’re more open to their best players representing them," he said. "A strong West Indies side means strong world cricket.
"Pakistan are always inconsistent but if they get to the play-offs, they can beat any side in the world."