In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, the twenty-eight year old Kapugedera spoke about the impact felt by the Sri Lanka team due to the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, his views on the potential success of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and the issue of illegal bowling actions in cricket.
PakPassion.net : What are your memories of that traumatic tour of 2009 to Pakistan?
Chamara Kapugedera : It was indeed a horrifying time for all of us on the tour but that is all history now. There is no point delving on past issues. It’s been a long time now and this is not something we discuss among ourselves as well. We should move on and look to the future.
PakPassion.net : How do you think Sri Lanka will cope without Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene?
Chamara Kapugedera : The two players you have mentioned were the backbone of our team and had been playing for more than fifteen years for Sri Lanka. Of course, their absence will be felt and it will take some time to find proper replacements for these great players and for others to start performing in the way the two greats used to perform.
PakPassion.net : Would you attribute the recent slump in Sri Lanka’s form to the absence of these two stalwarts?
Chamara Kapugedera :Yes, that connection can be made and for a good reason. They were both central to the team and that experience cannot be replaced very quickly. It will be up to the youngsters to put their hands up and step forward to fill the gap left by the departure of the two players.
PakPassion.net : Whilst what you say may be true, but do you feel that Sri Lanka planners did not plan ahead enough to groom replacements for the two greats?
Chamara Kapugedera : No, I do not agree with that. I feel that they did plan ahead and players like Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne were included and have performed well. I am pretty sure that they will come through for Sri Lanka in the future. We have to give them a few more years to get to the top of their game and we have to allow them time to grow into the role of senior players. Even Sangakkara and Mahela needed time to bloom into good players when they were young and so the young players of today will also need that time to develop.
PakPassion.net : What was it like playing in the same team as Sangakkara and Mahela?
Chamara Kapugedera : It was an absolute honour and pleasure playing alongside these two fine players. They were there to help in all matters whether it was on the field or off the field as well. This is what we will miss the most. The manner in which these two would share and pass on their experience to the younger players was absolutely wonderful.
PakPassion.net : How do you feel Angelo Matthews is coping with the pressure of Test and ODI captaincy?
Chamara Kapugedera : He has shown with his performances that he is the best choice for captain of Sri Lanka Test and ODI teams. He has all the qualities of a true leader where he has led from the front in the past few series. In fact his performance has actually improved after taking on the role of captain and that goes to prove that he is the right man for the job.
PakPassion.net : How patient is the Sri Lanka media and public when it comes to allowing the team to recover from the current dip in form?
Chamara Kapugedera : That’s really an Asian problem isn’t it?! Whether you are in India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka; the public doesn’t realize that you have to give time for teams to develop. Legends will retire eventually and have to be replaced and it does take time. But you have to remember, these are die-hard fans who expect the very best from their teams so you cannot blame them if their expectations are high for the team's performance. However, they have to understand that things will take more than a few months and even a year before they stabilize for Sri Lanka.
PakPassion.net : Given another chance, would you return to Pakistan to play there?
Chamara Kapugedera : I sincerely hope and pray that things have changed for the better in Pakistan since our last trip. As for myself, if I am given another opportunity, I will seriously consider going back. I am sure there will be another opportunity to visit the country again and I will definitely think about that.
PakPassion.net : What are your thoughts about the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and the choice of Doha as venue?
Chamara Kapugedera : I think it's great news for Pakistan cricket. I suppose the reason it's being held in Doha is due to the incidents of the past as international players would be reluctant to play in Pakistan. Holding this tournament in Doha is a good start as once it’s established then maybe it can be moved to Pakistan at a later stage when circumstances allow it. Once that happens then it will show to the world that Pakistan is a safe country for cricket and regular international cricket can resume there. For the moment, let the tournament happen in Doha and take it from there. It wouldn’t even be a bad idea to play a few games of the PSL in Pakistan and if I am participating in the PSL, I certainly would put my hand up if the one of the franchises wanted me to play there. That wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.
PakPassion.net : Does the concept of PSL have the potential to make it one of the top T20 Leagues around the world?
Chamara Kapugedera : This is absolutely true. Almost every country is running its own T20 League and the Pakistani version can also take its place among them. The PSL in my view has the potential to become a top league and most of all, it will help in developing new talent for Pakistan just like it has done for the other countries. It should provide great exposure for the younger and inexperienced Pakistan players. They will be able to play alongside the top international players and learn from that experience.
PakPassion.net : Do you support the recent crackdown on bowling actions or is that too harsh in your view?
Chamara Kapugedera : The ICC has some top experts on this subject in its ranks and they have had a long and hard think about this issue and they have decided to act against illegal bowling actions. The rules and regulations are there for all to follow and as long as bowlers are following those rules, then there is no issue. As a player you are under an obligation to play the game within the laws and to follow the guidelines of the governing body and that's all there is to it.
PakPassion.net : Having played against some of the currently banned bowlers in the past who may have taken your wicket, do you have a feeling of injustice when looking back at those times as they may well have been bowling with illegal actions then?
Chamara Kapugedera : Personally speaking, I will never delve on the past in that fashion. The fact is that when I was playing against Saeed Ajmal or Mohammad Hafeez, there were no such regulations in place. They were completely alright at that point. I have absolutely no problems or misgivings about that. They are great bowlers and nothing that is happening now can take that away from them.
PakPassion.net : Finally, have you expressed a desire to play in the PSL?
Chamara Kapugedera : Yes, I am very interested in playing in the PSL and my representative has already made contact with the PSL management on this issue. Honestly speaking, it’s a great opportunity to play alongside some of the better international and domestic players and I am hoping that I can get a contract to participate in this tournament.
- Amir Husain