Hobart Hurricanes coach Damien Wright admits axing Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sanagakkara for their KFC Big Bash League match against the Sydney Thunder was the hardest decision he’s ever had to make.
Sangakkara was dumped by the Hurricanes following a lean run with the bat in BBL|06, with young batsman Ben McDermott taking his spot at first drop.
The 39-year-old, Test cricket’s fifth-highest run scorer of all-time, has managed just 68 runs in his five hits this season and Wright recounted how difficult it was to drop him.
“It was really difficult, it was comfortably the hardest thing I’ve had to do,” Wright told cricket.com.au in the wake of his side’s six-wicket defeat to the Thunder.
“Only because of the quality person that he is, he’s a quality man and a wonderful bloke to have around. He’d be the first to admit it hasn’t gone to plan, in regards to of scoring a lot of runs for us.
“I was going over things in my head (before telling Sangakkara he’d been dropped) and about what to say.
“I slept on it and I went and met him the next day, and he showed the quality of person he is to sit there and totally understand where we were coming from.
“You could feel he probably knew it was coming. He was pretty apologetic that he hasn’t gone as well he would have liked it.
“Afterwards, I just thought, ‘he’s one of the best blokes I’ve ever had the experience of working with.’”
Having endured a rough trot during BBL|05 as well, Sangakkara’s numbers for the Hurricanes don’t make for pretty reading. He’s played 13 matches and has scored 173 runs at 14.41, while he’s still yet to pass 50 in the tournament.
The veteran looked to have found some of his old touch back in last week’s match against the Adelaide Strikers in Hobart with an unbeaten 22 to get the Hurricanes over the line.
But in the return leg against the same opposition in Adelaide, he fell for three as the Hurricanes slumped to 5-30, forcing the Hurricanes’ selection panel of Wright, assistant coach Simon Helmot, captain Tim Paine and cricket manager Andrew Dykes to make the change.
The 22-year-old McDermott, now with his third club after playing two games for the Brisbane Heat in BBL|03 and two games for the Renegades last summer, struck 31 off 21 balls before being run-out by George Bailey.
Wright said the decision to leave out Sangakkara was made more difficult not only due to his imposing international record but also because of his impeccable character.
“He’s one of the great players of all time, which made things really, really difficult from a personal point of view,” the former Victoria and Tasmania fast-bowler said.
“It was really hard personally because of his record in the game and the way he is as a man, as a bloke.
“He’s just a really humble guy, and it’s hard to leave good people out of teams.”
Former Hurricanes captain George Bailey, who admitted he’s glad he doesn’t have a say in selection, said it was a “big call” to leave out Sangakkara but praised McDermott for his knock.
“Yeah he batted beautifully until some d---head ran him out,” Bailey said after the game, in reference to himself.
“I thought he struck the ball really well.
“It was obviously a really big call (to leave out Sangakkara) and Benny responded (well).
“(There’s) a bit of pressure on debut when you’re replacing a legend of the game but he just batted beautifully.”
The Hurricanes travel to Melbourne for a must-win clash with the Renegades on Thursday, and Wright didn’t rule out bringing Sangakkara back in to counter the hosts’ spin threats.
“They have the likes of (Sunil) Narine and (Brad) Hogg, and Tom Cooper – he’s only part-time bowler – but he’s still been doing a great job for them up-front,” he said.
“There’s some quality spinners in that team and you know that Kumar is a really good player of spin.”
“So he’ll certainly be in our 13 to go to Melbourne and we’ll just have to decide on our starting line-up when we get there.”