ICC World Cup 2019: I have a feeling this World Cup will be one of the best ever tournaments – Kumar Sangakkara

In a long chat with Hindustan Times, the new MCC president Kumar Sangakkara discusses why he accepted the role and its challenges, cricket featuring in the Olympics, his take on the World Test Championship and more.

Earlier this week, London’s Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) broke a tradition of 232 years by electing former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara as their first international president. Only 41, Sangakkara was Surrey’s overseas cricketer before the Lord’s job came his way.

In a long chat with Hindustan Times, the new MCC president discusses why he accepted the role and its challenges, cricket featuring in the Olympics, his take on the World Test Championship and more.

Excerpts

Q: You are the first non-British MCC president. Where does this honour sit in your decorated career?

It is a great honour and privilege to be appointed as the first international president of MCC. I should thank the current president Anthony Wreford for having the courage to make a very difficult decision like this. I am very surprised that he was considering me and extended the invitation in January. I will turn 42 this year and retired only recently. When Anthony explained the reasoning, I understood the process and how long he would have thought about it.

Q: In which areas do you think the MCC and you should provide (more) leadership?

The MCC provides fantastic leadership, making Lord’s the finest experience a cricket player or a spectator can get. They are far ahead of any other cricket club or any other facility. As the guardians of laws of cricket, giving leadership is important. Then to spread the game internationally, undertaking MCC programmes overseas and within the country. Also, the charitable interests of MCC are growing. They have a deep association with charities in Sri Lanka as well where they have partnered with Foundation of Goodness that has done so much of good work both in the north and south. That will be the focus of the global role of MCC, to stay relevant and keep moving forward.

: Are you happy with the pace at which cricket is expanding? We have Afghanistan as one of the 10 teams in the World Cup; US have got ODI status too.

I think the ICC has been doing a very good job in terms of trying to spread the game and more importantly in terms of bringing new teams to the framework. MCC does it in a unique way and has planned to tie up and bring in exciting new countries.

It should be looked at how home boards do their scheduling. It has got more to do with the ICC to balance out the Future Tours Programme. From a Sri Lankan perspective, we have had lot of injuries over the last couple of years. There has to be adequate break between tours ensuring rehabilitation is done in a proper manner and try and develop backup to keep them fresh. There’s lot of international cricket and lot of domestic leagues taking place at the moment. They have to work with the home boards to balance things, not only for players and boards but even for spectators.

Q: What is the irony of heading the MCC while the Sri Lankan board and cricket is struggling?

Completely two separate roles. There is a constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and how members are elected. MCC meanwhile have a role for the president while there is a chairman and a CEO. The president’s role goes beyond and becomes an ambassadorial role as well. The MCC is a cricket club and has a membership and it owns the best stadium in the world. The way it looks at the game is different from SLC. These are two distinct roles.

Q: Are you for cricket in the Olympics?

I have been a member of the World Cricket Committee and we have very strongly pushed for cricket to be included in Olympics. There are discussions and debates and I feel that the process is on.

Q: Do you think the World Test Championship is the way to go?

The World Test Championship is great. Finally it is done after much debate. There will be a settling in period to start with. Right now there is a rating points system. We needed to start it and support it thoroughly. Each Test series counts and it gives cricket a much-needed context for the fans as well.

Q: How do you assess the quality of world cricket?

A: Cricket is changing a lot. It has to be relevant. Cricket needs to keep an eye that it never loses sportsmanship or the Spirit of Cricket. All players, boards and officials need to take responsibility to keep the game free of corruption. That is vital for the sustainability of the game. The game has changed. Players have changed with that as well. Not fair to compare era and teams.

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The current era has some wonderful cricketers — Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Steve Smith. These guys have taken cricket to a new level. They are bringing a new dimension to the game. Women’s cricket has grown strongly in the last decade and that’s a big plus for cricket. I think everyone has to support this sport and nurture the game. Fans are so important as well. There’s a lot of responsibility on players and officials to make sure that the game stays relevant.

Q: How important is the 2019 World Cup for the survival of the ODI cricket?

I have a feeling this World Cup will be one of the best ever tournaments. There will be close competition and I am sure we can look forward to some great cricket. The fans will enjoy it. It will be a great occasion for the sport and I am really excited.

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