(Jamaica Observer) Jamaica Tallawahs captain Kumar Sangakkara is relishing the challenge of meeting the expectations of local fans, as the team aims to repeat a perfect four wins from as many games at home in the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Twenty20 tournament.
The two-time champions will kick-start that bid today when they battle the hapless St Lucia Stars in the 23rd match of the tournament at Sabina Park, starting at 8:00 pm. The other games will be against Trinbago Knight Riders tomorrow, St Kitts and Nevis Patriots next Wednesday and Guyana Amazon Warriors on September 1.
Last year, the defending champions, led by Chris Gayle, won all four games in convincing manner, defeating Barbados Tridents by 36 runs; the Knight Riders by 19 runs; St Kitts and Nevis Patriots by 108 runs and Guyana Amazon Warriors by five wickets.
They went on to secure a second title, adding to that of the inaugural win in 2013.However, now without the likes of Gayle, Chadwick Walton and Andre Russell, Sangakkara and his men are tasked with once again satisfying the huge appetites of the Jamaican crowd, with electrifying performances with both bat and ball.
“Pressure is always there; it is a constant in any format of the game in a professional sport that we play at this level. So players have to learn to deal with that pressure, everyone is different coping, but the key is that we deal with it together and not leave anyone isolated.
“And the pressure is good, because without pressure I don’t think there is enough challenge to get you to progress and improve as an individual or a side. So it is great for us to be back in Jamaica. We take a lot of pride in representing this island, so hopefully the games will go well,” Sangakkara told journalists at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel yesterday.
Looking ahead to Wednesday’s clash with the Chris Gayle-captained Patriots, Sangakkara is anticipating an exciting contest, one where the support of the local fans might be divided, given their love for the hard-hitting left-hander.
“I have the highest regard and respect for Chris; I know that he is playing for St Kitts, but he is still Jamaican at heart, so it will be an interesting and fun dynamic when Chris takes the field against us. But like he said in the press after our last game, you can take a Jamaican out of Jamaica, but you can’t take Jamaica out of a Jamaican,” he said with a smile.
The former Sri Lankan wicketkeeper/batsman, who opened the Tallawahs batting in a few games and played a crucial knock of 47 in the win over Trinbago Knight Riders, has since been on a rollercoaster ride throughout the batting line-up.
This mainly due to the numerous young stars who favour batting up the order, and as expected, Sangakkara, 39, is contented with playing a supporting role to these explosive players in the squad.
“I have been batting a bit all over the place, I would prefer to bat up top because I think that is where I can make the most impact, but unfortunately we have players who need to bat up the top… younger players who are doing exceptionally well.
“So my job is to really fit into where the need is, it could be number four or number five, depending on the day, but when you have top-quality young openers like Glenn Phillips, Lendl Simmonds [in good knick] and Andre McCarthy, whose three innings have been unbelievable for us, my job is just to sit around and see where I fit in when I get the opportunity,” the veteran player noted.