London : Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said an inspirational net session with the legendary Kumar Sangakkara played a key role in his side’s stunning win over defending champions India in a must-win ICC Champions Trophy match here.
Former skipper Sangakkara, who is currently playing for Surrey, spent some time with his country’s youngsters before yesterday’s crucial clash against India.
Mathews thanked Sangakkara for his tips to Kusal Mendis, who made 89 yesterday, and other young batsmen.
“Yeah, he (Mendis) met Kumar Sangakkara to get a few batting tips, and he’s the king, and we all look up to him. We all get advice from him, all the batters,” Mathews said.
“He taught us a lot of good things on how to play on these tracks. Yesterday the guys met him and took a lot of advice and went out there and implemented it.”
Sri Lanka were thrashed by South Africa in their opening match last week but bounced back in style to chase down India’s imposing 321-run total at The Oval with seven wickets in hand.
Incidentally, it was Sri Lanka’s joint highest ODI run chase, which also kept alive their hopes of reaching the semi-finals.
Danushka Gunathilaka, who replaced an injured Chamara Kapugedera, struck a fine 76 off 72 balls while Mendis made 89 as the duo shared 159 runs for the second wicket to lay the foundation for the run chase.
“Mind you, to walk into a game knowing that he (Danushka) wasn’t even in the 15 and Kapugedera got injured yesterday, and he had to step in and to open the batting against a very strong opposition, it was fantastic the way he batted,” Mathews said.
Sri Lanka might have been rated as underdogs for years now but Mathews is not bothered whether the victory against India will make their opponents respect them or not.
“Well, it doesn’t matter if the opposition respects us or not. We are out to do a job, and we don’t really think about what the opposition thinks (about us).
“I mean, no one really expected us to win (against India) as well, but we knew underneath that we have the talent and we have another opportunity to beat a fantastic team, which we did,” Mathews said after his team’s seven wicket win against India.
But on a personal note, he termed it a big win as Sri Lanka had endured shoddy performances and injury issues over the last few months.
“Yeah, it was a very important game for us. You know, no one really expected us to win. That took a lot of pressure off ourselves, and we just went out there, expressed ourselves, and you can see what we can do when we play with a lot of freedom,” Mathews said.
They now have a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals if they beat Pakistan in their last Group B match, but he doesn’t want to look too far ahead.
“We don’t want to think too far ahead. We just want to take one game at a time. Now it’s (win vs India) done, and we look forward to our next game. It will be the same plan — go out there with no expectations,” Mathews said.
Mathews sympathised with coach Graham Ford who had been criticised a lot for the team’s poor show.
Mathews said he, in fact, was ready for the brickbats had his gamble of sending an injured Kusal Perera back to the pavilion not worked. Kusal was batting well on 47 when he was forced to retire due to a hamstring pull.
“Yeah, it’s always the coach and the captain. Kusal Perera’s call was also crucial. As a captain, I had to send him, and it would have been a few bullets fired at me if it hadn’t gone too well. But that’s what we are there for — to take crucial decisions at crucial times, and it doesn’t matter if it fails,” the Lankan skipper said.