Kumar Sangakkara called Mahela Jayawardene Sri Lanka’s best batsman after Aravinda De Silva. In a chat with reporters ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup semifinals against New Zealand, Sangakkara paid glorious tribute to his bosom buddy and Sri Lanka’s former captain.
Sri Lanka will depend on Mahela’s batting prowess against the New Zealanders, who have their tails up after stunning South Africa by 49 runs in the quarterfinals in Mirpur last week. Mahela, of course, will have fond memories of the 2007 World Cup semis against the Kiwis in Jamaica.
Then as skipper, Mahela struck his maiden World Cup hundred (115) and coupled with a mesmerizing four for 31 by off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka scored an emphatic 81-run victory against New Zealand. Four years later in Colombo, as Lanka and New Zealand cross paths again, Sangakkara is not banking on history.
“Mahela has been our best batsman in the side after Aravinda De Silva,” said Sangakkara. “It will be a new day against New Zealand on Tuesday and Mahela will know his role,” he added. The 45-year-old De Silva is now the chief national selector. He scored 9284 runs in 308 ODIs, smashing 11 hundreds and 64 fifties.
“It will be back to square one, we have to live in the present and stay focused,” said Sangakkara, adding that the unbeaten 231-run partnership between Dilshan and Upul Tharanga against England was “a thing of the past.”
“Our openers did a great job against England, but it doesn’t happen often. The partnership overshadowed the contest against England, but against New Zealand, we have to play as a team. There is no room for complacency,” said Sangakkara.
Even after blowing away New Zealand by 112 runs in a group match in Mumbai, Sangakkara refuses to believe Sri Lanka will start as favourites on Tuesday.
“We don’t want to show off. We understand the gravity of the situation and want to take the small steps first. New Zealand are a good team. They field well and bat deep. We are expecting a fierce contest,” said Sangakkara.