LONDON // Kumar Sangakkara, the super-intelligent Sri Lanka captain who combines cricket with studying law, has hit on a novel theory about Twenty20 cricket. He claims the format - invented to entertain the MTV generation with an incessant stream of fours and sixes - is, in fact, a bowler's game. To back up his claims, his side have been eschewing big-hitting and heavy-scoring of late, just, it seems, so his powerful bowling line-up can show off their wares under pressure.
"I think Twenty20 is fast becoming a bowler's game rather than a batsman's game," said Sangakkara, whose side face New Zealand today. "Bowlers have an opportunity to take wickets with almost every ball they bowl. "The fact remains that if you have two to three bowlers in your side who are bowling well and putting pressure on the opposition, the batsmen are going to attack someone else. "If you are defending 144 [as the Sri Lankans did successfully last time out, against Ireland], the other side are always going to get close. The key is not to let them get close enough."
Sangakkara can call on two of the best slow bowlers in the competition - Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan - to stem the flow of runs. But Lasith Malinga, the fit-again fast bowler, has become his kingpin during the death overs. "He has a natural advantage with his action, but I think the hallmark of Lasith Malinga as well as nearly all our Sri Lankan cricketers is the fact they work hard in the nets," added the captain.
"It has been good to see that the work ethic and environment in our dressing room is conducive to that. There is no secret to his accuracy and talent. It is down to a lot of hard work." New Zealand's World Twenty20 challenge has been severely hindered by injury. They have been without arguably their best three players - Daniel Vettori, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor - for most of the event. Vettori returned in the last game and the captain also hopes to be able to recall Taylor for today's must-win encounter with the Sri Lankans.
"Jesse, Ross and myself being removed from our first XI has made it difficult," he said. "Fortunately we have been able to string some performances together to get ourselves into this position. "Hopefully Sri Lanka will rest some players or take their foot off the pedal, but I don't think they are a side who does that ever. "If we want to go anywhere in this tournament we have to win it. If we don't then we have only beaten Ireland and Scotland and it will be a disappointing tournament."