Toe-crusher Lasith Malinga and left-arm pacer Isuru Udana were the only two Sri Lankan cricketers to be part of the IPL until last year.
“I think there were some fantastic players there (in the Lanka Premier League) and in Sri Lanka currently. But I think the crucial thing is the unpredictability of the touring programme of SLC (Sri Lanka Cricket) where it is very hard to predict for how long players can be available and if they have to even leave at some point in the IPL season,” Sangakkara told reporters during a virtual interaction on Friday.
“So it adds a bit of volatility that franchises kind of shy away from. That is one of the big reasons why you see a lack of Sri Lanka players in the IPL and definitely not because they don’t have the capability,” added the former Sri Lanka captain.
This comes as a bit of a surprise especially when Sri Lanka staged the inaugural Lanka Premier League (LPL) last year.
Sangakkara further maintained that cricket boards need to strike a balance between international cricket and franchise leagues such as IPL as both benefit the game. New Zealand Cricket (NZC), in particular, indicated that it won’t restrict its players from competing in the upcoming IPL even if the T20 event’s schedule clashes with the Kiwis’ Test series against England starting June 2.
“An IPL contract is structured in a way that the players need a NOC from their home boards to allow them to participate. I am sure that there is a balance that can be struck. It’s a constant debate that will happen over what the ideal balance is. There has been debate in the past on whether there should be a window for the IPL in international cricket. We have seen that if there is a continuous confrontation between players and home boards about franchise tournaments like the IPL, we have seen players taking early retirements and that leaves international cricket a lot poorer,” the 43-year-old said.
Sangakkara cited India’s recent victory over Australia at The Gabba chasing a massive 328 runs as one of the benefits passed on from the IPL. Other countries, according to him, who have been the biggest beneficiaries in shorter formats of the game include England and New Zealand.
“The IPL has allowed a stage for the players from all over the world to improve their shorter version skills, that can then be transferred into ODI and Test cricket. We have seen the performance of England in the shorter version of the game in the last few years. New Zealand, in terms of how their side has developed since the advent of IPL. We have seen the benefits for India. In the recent past, the team that beat Australia in the final Test, you can name that benefit all down the line,” Sangakkara explained.
South African Chris Morris made the Royals spend a whopping Rs 16.25 crore in the auction and Sangakkara feels that the lanky bowling all-rounder could have come at a lesser price even though he will play a crucial role in supporting England seamer Jofra Archer.
“Morris has a very specific role for us to play vis-a-vis Archer. He gives us a lot more flexibility in the bowling department, the way we use Archer. Also Morris’ numbers – when he is fit and strong – is some of the best in all IPL. Bowling at the death, he is probably No. 1. In terms of game impact, he is very much in the top bracket. His ability in that sense is very crucial for us and he frees us up to how to use Archer in other ways. We also have Andrew Tye in our line-up and Mustafizur (Rahman) and then we have the young Indian quicks as well to support that. So it gives us a few more combinations to play and in that sense he was quite crucial to have. We could have got him for much less but then Mumbai and then Kings were pressing so we had to push for him a little (more),” said the former Sri Lanka wicketkeeper-batsman.
Last season the Royals faced immense trouble settling for an opening combination — experimenting with the likes of Australian Steve Smith, India’s Under-19 World Cup hero Yashasvi Jaiswal and England stars Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes. Asked specifically about Buttler’s best position, Sangakkara put the onus on the match situation.
“That is a conversation we need to have with Jos (Buttler) and then of course we have to balance to get the best out of the player as well as getting the best out of the entire batting unit. Last season the trend seemed to be set with (Ben) Stokes at the top of the order and Buttler playing that 360 degree finishing role coming in at crucial times of the game. Buttler’s ability beyond all players that I think is that he is one of the few batsmen in the world who can play that adaptive role. Undoubtedly, he is one of the most destructive opening batsmen in the shorter format of the game and we have seen that at the international level. But at the same time he is one of those rare players who can adapt to different situations,” said Sangakkara, who has amassed 26,000-plus runs in Tests and ODIs combined.
T20 specialist David Miller was under-utilised by the Royals in the last two editions of the IPL warming up the benches on most occasions. But Sangakkara feels South African’s power-hitting skills will come in handy this season. Miller recently slammed an unbeaten 45-ball 85 to help the Proteas recover from a precarious 65/7 against Pakistan in the third T20I.
“Well, I think he is a fantastic player. He has the ability to punish the attack. He had a very good innings in the last T20 against Pakistan where he brought South Africa out of the very difficult situation. So he has all the weapons to become very important batsmen for us in the middle to death period. And at the same time, he is a great guy with great character and it’s wonderful to have him around in a team. So he brings a lot to us in terms of advantage,” he said.
Talking about the debate surrounding the use of bouncer in competitive cricket, Sangakkara said: “I am not really sure whether taking bouncer away from cricket is going to improve it as a spectacle or will it specially improve players’ safety. I think it’s been a critical part of the game, one that allows specific challenge between bowler and batsman. If you take it away, especially at the junior level, when a player progresses at the international level, he or she will have no idea how to deal with short-pitched bowling.”