Selfless Sangakkara's decision shocking
Kumar Sangakkara did the unthinkable!
In an unprecedented move on Sunday, the Sri Lankan decided to pull himself out of Deccan Chargers' playing eleven ahead of their match against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede stadium. This, despite of the fact that he is the captain of the side.
Sangakkara's decision was surprising; correction, shocking, considering the fact that it came at a time when Deccan Chargers had, in their previous match against Pune Warriors, secured their first win of the tournament -- following five straight defeats and a wash out.
In the final analyis, the move did not yield the desired result; another Deccan Chargers' batting collapse meant they lost the plot early, and, subsequently, the match.
However, the Sri Lankan's decision was a first of its kind. Never ever in cricketing history, and certainly not in the Indian Premier League, has a captain been so selfless and decided to sacrifice himself in the best interests of his team, especially when he is fit and certain to play.
'That's definitely the first time it has happened'
"That's definitely the first time it has happened," admitted Cameron White, who took over the responsibility from Sangakkara for the match, having also captained the team in their opening defeat against holders Chennai Super Kings at Visakhapatnam earlier this month.
"Sometimes you change the team when you get into the ground, but it is unusual to change the captain," he added, before proceeding to elaborate the reason behind the unusual decision.
"Darren Lehmann [the coach] and Kumar were discussing and deciding on the best team to pick for this wicket," explained the Australian, adding, "The team that we played tonight was what they decided to go with and it was my responsibility to captain the team and play as well as we could. Unfortunately, we weren't good enough tonight.
"But it [not playing himself] was a very selfless thing for Kumar to do."
It was indeed.
While Deccan Chargers have been disappointing as a team in this tournament, Sangakkara's decision had more to do with his own form.
The Sri Lankan has managed to score just 83 runs in five matches, 44 off them having come in one match.
Image: Cameron White
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images
It takes courage to do what Sangakkara did
Having said that, it takes courage, and responsibility, to do what he did.
If it is about form -- save Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid -- all the other captains in this edition of the IPL have grossly underperformed.
While MS Dhoni, who captains defending champions CSK, is yet to decide on his position in the batting order, Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Daniel Vettori has been ineffective, to say the least.
The New Zealander has claimed just five wickets in eight games while being expensive.
With Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Tillekeratne Dilshan qualifying for the playing eleven on merit, it is Vettori is the weak link for Bangalore when it comes to the four foreign players eligible to play for the team.
His reluctance to make way for Muttiah Muralitharan, despite the Sri Lankan having taken eight wickets from his four matches, has cost his team dear.
Photographs: Morne de Klerk/Getty Images
Ganguly, Harbhajan are also struggling
As regards Harbhajan Singh, the less said the better.
With just three wickets in nine matches, and an economy rate of almost seven-and-a-half, Harbhajan's is one of the worst performances for Mumbai Indians, which despite all the hype, has been inconsistent, to say the least.
Don't read too much into Harbhajan's figures (two for 13) on Sunday. It was more about Deccan Chargers' miserable batting than his bowling. It is imperative to mention here that when Mumbai was shut out for just 92 in its home game against Delhi Daredevils, Harbhajan didn't even come in to bowl, saying he "wanted to give others a chance".
It was vintage Sourav Ganguly in Pune Warriors' match against Delhi Daredevils at Ferozshah Kotla, the veteran scoring 41 and picking up a couple of wickets.
However, that is just about it.
The above effort may be enough to appease Dada's many fans, but from Pune's point of view their captain has failed to deliver on all occasions, save one.
Blame it on age, fitness or lack of regular cricket, Ganguly is clearly struggling.
So is Adam Gilchrist.
The Australian great has looked a shadow of his self in this tournament, aggregating only 99 runs in five matches before an injury ruled him out.
In fact, Kings XI Punjab has done well under Gilchrist's successor, David Hussey.
Sangakkara has set a precedent
It is the captain who has the responsibility to lead his side from the front. Consequently, if there's a drop in his performance, it affects that of his side as well.
It is in this context that Sangakkara's decision sets a new benchmark. It might not have yielded the desired result, but certainly made one thing clear -- a captain, more importantly an under-performing one, can, and should, always put his team ahead of his own self.
"Some would definitely say it backfired tonight. It was unfortunate that we couldn't pull off a win," explained White.
"But it might work on some other occasion," he added.
Sangakkara has set a precedent.
Photographs: Tom Shaw/Getty Images