Farbrace describes Sangakkara as ‘cricketing genius’
Paul Farbrace, the former Sri Lanka assistant coach, has said that Kumar Sangakkara is the “most professional” cricketer he has seen at training, and had helped him become a better coach.
Farbrace, now England’s assistant coach, had two stints with the Sri Lanka team. He was assistant coach under Trevor Bayliss from 2007 to 2009, and was briefly head coach, from January to April 2014.
“Kumar is, without doubt, the most professional I have ever seen in practice,” Farbrace said. “I’ve never seen anyone practise like him. Some get close, but his desire to be the best he can be is unbelievable. The day before a match he is – in the nicest sense – a complete pain. His practice has to be top quality.
“He watches videos of bowlers to work out when he should be making his movements. It takes a lot of thought. It takes a lot of understanding. He is a cricketing genius.”
Farbrace had been with Sri Lanka when Sangakkara led them to the World T20 final in 2009, and had also overseen the 2014 World T20 victory. Sangakkara’s highest Test-match aggregate – 424 against Bangladesh – also came under Farbrace’s watch.
“Kumar taught me a very valuable coaching lesson,” Farbrace said. “He is very specific about his left foot. It moves from middle and leg to middle and off. Never back and across, never forward – it never opens. I was watching him in the nets and concentrating more on the bowlers than him. But after about 10 balls he asked how his foot was looking. I told him it looked great, as he had been hitting the ball nicely.
“After the net, he took me to one side and said, ‘Next time I ask you a question like that, be honest with me. Three times my foot went back and across towards leg stump, not the other way, and I don’t want any false information.’ That was a huge lesson for me. I should have said I hadn’t been watching. I should have been honest. I learned so much from him. And I know the players around him learned from that level of professionalism.”
Farbrace also lauded both Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene as “world-class people as well as world-class players”.
“I recall we had a Test in Kandy once when I was unwell. First he took me to a doctor for treatment to help me get over an ear infection, and then we stopped at a local ground where he had a bat on a concrete net in front of his dad.
“His dad has clearly been a constant throughout his career. He pushed and encouraged him when he was young and he continued to provide advice and reassurance. Anyway, Kumar never forgot how he had become successful. Even when he was at his peak, he would go back to see his dad and make sure no faults had crept into his game.”
Sangakkara averages 54.07 away from home, and Farbrace said it is his versatility that makes him a great cricketer. “I’ve seen him score 192 against Brett Lee at his quickest in Hobart and I’ve seen him score 150 on a turning pitch against the best spin bowlers. He had to adapt and adjust. That takes so much planning and ability.
Farbrace has been a force behind the drive to get Jayawardene into a temporary consultancy role with England. He said Sangakkara was also quick to share his experience with other cricketers.
“Kumar is very good at deflecting credit towards other people. He always talks about how good Mahela is and how much he has inspired their nation. He talks about him being their greatest captain. But he has given so much to his country and so much to the game. I have got him to talk to England players in the past. He will share his knowledge with anyone who has the passion that he has.
“I don’t think the Sri Lankan team will realise quite how big a contribution he has made until he is no longer there.”