Ending days of speculation, Kumar Sangakkara on Friday replaced Yuvraj Singh as the captain of the Indian Premier League team Kings XI Punjab but insisted that the Indian left-hander would remain the side’s “most important” player.
The Sri Lankan skipper was tipped to take over the job weeks ago but the team management had so far kept mum on the matter. The side’s CEO Anil Srivatsa finally put an end to the speculation by announcing Sangakkara as the new skipper.
“Kumar Sangakkara is the new captain of Kings XI Punjab. We are hoping for good things to come out of it,” Srivatsa told reporters.
Asked why Yuvraj was removed from the post despite the team’s reasonably successful campaigns in the first two seasons of IPL, Srivatsa said being replaced as captain would not affect the left-hander’s stature and hoped it would instead help him to do better with the bat.
“Being taken off the leadership role does not diminish Yuvraj’s standing in the team. Yuvraj’s inputs are vital for us. He has done well for the team in the past two seasons and he has one more year with us. He did his job well enough as we reached semifinals in both the years. This has got nothing to do with all this. He is still what he is in the team,” he insisted.
Sangakkara echoed Srivatsa’s views and said he spoke to Yuvraj immediately after being told about the change of captaincy.
“I have enjoyed playing under Yuvraj, he is a very able captain. When everything was not concrete, I spoke to him and after that I decided that it was the right time to take up captaincy.
“I don’t think it would cause any problem. He is a very good friend. I had a long chat with him on this, everything was done very transparently. Moreover, Yuvraj is the most important player in our side. Any IPL team will be lucky to have him. He can change a match just like that. He is a match winner,” he said.
“In fact to have a nationwide talent hunt for quality domestic players was his idea and I am sure it will help us this season.”
There were reports that Yuvraj’s attitude and the personal split between co-owners Preity Zinta and Ness Wadia were the reasons for his “sacking” but Srivatsa said such reports were baseless. He also rubbished suggestions that foreign players were being preferred over Indians for leading the IPL sides.
“It’s just a perception. Nothing to that all. We are a professional team and we have enough cricketing brains to take such decisions,” Srivatsa said.
“To say that foreigners are being preferred would amount to taking a very narrow view. We don’t look at international boundaries when we pick players,” Srivatsa said.
Asked if the team was looking to buy any specific players during the January 19 auction, Sangakkara said the fast bowling all-rounders could get a look in.
“At the next auction, we would be looking for fast bowlers, who are really fast. Fast bowling all-rounders. Plus quality domestic Indian players would also be looked at,” Sangakkara said.
On how he plans to cope with the busy schedule which has only busier with IPL, Sangakkara said, “We are ready for national, IPL and domestic commitments. We will get three to four weeks off now. That’s enough time to recuperate and all the players would be raring to go.”
“I think it’s going to be testing but possible,” he added.