Sydney, March 18: Sri Lanka's wicketkeeper-batsman and one of the legends of the game, Kumar Sangakkara bid adieu to One Day Internationals at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) today with a loss to South Africa in the quarter-final of the ICC World Cup 2015.
Sri Lanka bowed out of the tournament after their 9-wicket loss to the Proteas today. The 37-year-old Sangakkara, after four successive hundreds in the World Cup, finished his ODI career with a 45 (96 balls). He ended his 50-over cricket journey with 404 caps (14,234 runs, second in most ODI runs list behind Sachin Tendulkar).
Speaking to the media after the match, Sangakkara reflected on the quarter-final loss, his career and many more. Also today, Mahela Jayawardene retired from ODIs. (Video of Sangakkara-Mahela leaving SCG)
Here is the full transcript of Sangakkara's press conference in Sydney on Wednesday
Question: Kumar, not the ideal finish for you. Take us through what actually went wrong after you won the toss and batted.
Kumar Sangakkara: Well, I thought they bowled pretty well at the start, and losing two wickets up front always puts the batters under pressure. We were playing with six batsmen today, and it was just a case of building partnerships, but every time we tried to get something going, there was a wicket falling, and the disappointing thing was that we gave seven wickets to spin when they were a pace dominant attack.
I think they bowled well. The wicket probably helped because it was a bit two paced at the start, but we should be disappointed with ourselves the way we played because we just weren't good enough to get the 250, 260-run score that would have really been difficult to chase on that track.
Q: How disappointing is it to go out in this fashion?
Sangakkara: Well, like I said, it's disappointing to lose, especially in a quarterfinal, but to win against a side like South Africa we have to do really well. We have to compete. There was a stage even when we were four wickets down where we probably could have gone through the powerplay and maybe got to the 240, 250 mark, but then again, a couple of wickets fell, then six wickets became seven and eight very quickly, and that was the case.
If you take our innings, our batting innings, it was a lot of stop starts, but a lot of wickets falling together. And we were expecting, as much as anyone, of ourselves. But we weren't good enough today.
Q: I know that you've always made much of the team and it being a team game, but that was your last game at One Day International cricket today. How disappointing is it to go out on that note? I know you've had such a great career, but quarterfinal World Cup?
Sangakkara: Well, that's the way it goes. Someone has got to lose in a quarterfinal. It's a do-or-die situation. It could have been my last game, it could have been one of the games that I've played. I don't think that makes a huge difference or adds to the disappointment. I think it's just a case of just taking stock of what we did and how we did it.
You know, there's another four-year wait for the next World Cup, and we have a lot of people in the dressing room who would have learned a lot from this World Cup, and that'll stand them in good stead going forward. Personally I've had a great time playing with these boys. Disappointments are a part of our career, and you just take it on the chin and move on.
Q: Do you think the team is in good hands?
Sangakkara: I think the team is in great hands. Angelo Mathews has been such an impressive leader right throughout. I think Dilshan might be playing a few more seasons for Sri Lanka, and we've had Thirimanne who's really come into great strides. Every single time he plays he looks more and more impressive. We've had a few injuries this tour, but if you look at the players we have, you can't but be positive about the future.
Q. It was in 2001 against South Africa where you came on to the scene and today again South Africa, are you leaving Sri Lankan cricket in a better state than you walked into in 2001?
Sangakkara: I hope so, and I definitely think so. I think if you take some of the younger players, if I can compare myself to them at the same age, I think these guys are quite a ways ahead of where I was, and that's quite exciting when you really look at it because that means they've got so much more left to learn and a lot more to give to Sri Lanka.
There's no secret to playing good cricket. It's making the best use of your talent, working as hard as you can in the nets, and then making the right decisions out in the middle. I definitely think Sri Lankan cricket has progressed leaps and bounds from where we started and from where I started, and I have no fear about the future of Sri Lankan cricket. I think our guys will do very, very well.
Q: You spoke about Thirimanne.
Sangakkara: Yeah, I think that there will be a lot of opinions on that, should we, shouldn't we have. Thiri adds a lot of solidity wherever he bats, and with the injuries we've had and with Chandimal going back, we had Upul was another opener, who's over 16 international hundreds, I think, but I think you make the best choices that you think for that particular occasion, and sometimes they go wrong. I think selection as in most things in cricket is a matter of opinion and trust, and you trust the bowlers you select to do the best they can.
Sometimes you've found one thing, sometimes you leave with more questions than answers, but then again, that's the way this game goes. And when we had that 11 walking out, I think everyone was pretty confident that we were good enough to do the job. But Kaushal, Thiri opening, yeah, maybe Thiri could have stuck one, maybe Upul could have come in, but like I said, hindsight is 20/20. With the game as a whole, I don't think we were up to the mark.
Q: How do you describe your own journey in this World Cup? Why are you going out now when you're at your peak?
Sangakkara: Retiring from cricket is not about form. To me personally it never is. I'm sure I can play maybe a year or two more, but like I said before, it's time and place, and I feel that the time is now and it's right and the World Cup with a four-year wait in between is the right occasion to do it. I'm pretty happy with the decision I've made. I've tried to give everything I have when I've played the game, and you know, the game goes on.
You can't hold onto it and people shouldn't be too sentimental. I love the support that they've given me over the years, and I've become a lot better person and a player because of that support and love, but at the end of the day, I think a lot better players and greater players have gone, and the game has gone on and there are new players who take the mantle, and in my case it won't be any different.
Q: After losing two wickets, four runs, it seemed like you were trying to get ones and twos. How hard were you trying and how hard was it to get singles and twos?
Sangakkara: Yeah, well, I was just trying to see that new ball off. Morne (Morkel), they were pushing for wickets. And once they had two, they were pushing to get three, maybe four wickets. Morne was bowling pretty quickly, bowled some good lengths, and our job was just to hold on. The run rate in this format of the game now with the new rules, you can always catch up. You can be three and a half, four runs and 0 for the first 20 and the next 30 you can get 200 runs. That's the way this game has gone.
It was just a case of building solid partnerships and batting 20, 25 overs without worrying too much about the rate. But Thiri (Thirimanne) batted beautifully, but then unfortunately he got out. The next partnership didn't lost long. Angie and I lasted a bit, but then again, that stop start thing was a problem. It wasn't that easy to time the ball on the wicket today, but sometimes that's the case, you just have to stick it out and stick it out and when you get to that powerplay, you can't take 10 runs off in a row without too much of an effort. We just didn't have enough wickets when that time came around.
Q: You've batted pretty fluently through the rest of the tournament. Was it a bit jarring to come onto to pitch and have to play that role where you're seeing a lot of balls off?
Sangakkara: Yeah, I walked in, and I remember playing in Sydney when we played the Australians when it started off and we bowled pace. There seemed to be a bit of -- the batsmen weren't really timing the ball even with the swings. I think they really got into a rhythm against the spin. Today it was no different. I walked in to bat and I was trying to hit the ball into the gaps, but sometimes you time one and it still wouldn't penetrate the field. So it becomes frustrating.
But like I said, you just make the best of that situation and keep fighting, keep working, keep working and get to a stage where you can really launch, but to do that you need wickets in hand. Yeah, it was disappointing not be able to go out there from ball one and be able to time the ball. I think Thiri did that the moment he walked in. He had a beautiful rhythm today. But like I said, no one really batted long enough.
Q: I assume you're going to continue in Test cricket for a while longer, but I think tonight's game was Mahela Jayawardene's last for Sri Lanka in any format. Could you just say what it's been like to spend so much of your career playing alongside him?
Sangakkara: Oh, I think it's been a great privilege. He's been, along with Aravinda de Silva, I think Mahela has been an exceptional player for Sri Lanka who's scored a lot of runs. He's made a hundred in a lot of victories, and he's given a lot on and off the field to the country. So I think he's going to be sorely missed.
You know, he can look back again and really appreciate what he's been given by the country, the support he's been given, but also what he's given back. I'm sure he's going to be thoroughly disappointed today, but also, sometimes there is a bit of relief, as well, when your career ends. The high-pressure situations, the warmups, the ice baths, the recovery sessions, all of that, all repeated over 16, 17 years can get a bit much. But yeah, like I said, time to look at other things and other aspects of life.
Q: Kumar, you finished with a tally of runs second only to Sachin Tendulkar, more dismissals than anyone else, first man to score hundreds in four successive One Day Internationals. How would you like to be remembered?
Sangakkara: Oh, if anyone can say that they've enjoyed playing against me and playing with me, I'll be more than happy.