Kumar Sangakkara has agreed to be Durham’s first all-formats overseas player in 2009 but when the Sri Lankan legend will make his debut is still to be decided.
Late yesterday afternoon the 36-year-old told media in his homeland he has agreed to join Durham for “two to three” County Championship matches this season, though when head coach Jon Lewis was asked about it at the end of day three of the champions’ opening game at Northamptonshire, he admitted it was news to him.
“I’m glad to see that come out but I can’t confirm it,” he said.
“It will be good for us if he can come for two to three games. We’ll squeeze him in!
“I’d struggle to name a better player in world cricket who’s not in the IPL (Indian Premier League). It would be great to have a quality player, even if it is for a short period.”
It seems certain Sangakkara will play in the home match against Yorkshire starting on May 4, and in the game against Sussex at Hove seven days later.
Whether he will be available for the games which sandwich that – a Championship game against Somerset, and opening Twenty20 Cup game with Worcestershire, both at home – is still to be decided.
“Originally we were thinking about Championship cricket but we’ve got one Twenty20 game which stands alone,” Lewis commented.
“It would be nice if he was available for that.”
Sangakkara is a veteran of 122 Tests, 369 one-day internationals (ODIs) and 56 Twenty20 internationals.
He will use his short stint as a warm-up for Sri Lanka’s 50-over and Test series against England. That was his reason for deciding against putting himself forward for this year’s IPL. The former Sri Lanka wicketkeeper and captain averages 58 in Tests and 40 in ODIs. He is ranked as the second best Test batsman in the world, and the fifth in ODIs.
Sangakkara retired from Twenty20 internationals earlier this month, bowing out with a match-winning performance in the World Championships final.
That retirement means he will sit out the first competitive game of the tour, a T20 international, but the one-day starts on May 22, with the second game at Chester-le-Street three days later. The first Test, at Lord’s, starts on June 12.
Since Shivnarine Chanderpaul last played for Durham in 2009, the county have only had overseas players in Twenty20 cricket. English counties are allowed one in Championship cricket, but two in the shorter form of the game.
Australian John Hastings will be Durham’s main overseas player this year, but he is playing for Chennai Superkings in the IPL, and will not be available until they are knocked out of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Durham go into the final day of their opening Championship game at Northampton with a declaration to consider. They are effectively 252-5, but wickets have been hard to come by on the first three days of the match.