London: Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakarra on Thursday backed calls for Kusal Perera to be called up to the current squad after the talented batsman was cleared to play following an admission by officials that he had been suspended over a botched drug test.
Perera was suspended during Sri Lanka’s tour of New Zealand last December, after a laboratory in Qatar, accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said he had produced a positive result in an out-of-competition test.
But the International Cricket Council (ICC) lifted the suspension with immediate effect late on Wednesday when it described the test as “an atypical finding” that could not be construed as evidence of doping.
Sangakkara, speaking at an event in London staged by sponsors Investec ahead of the start of next week’s England-Sri Lanka Test series, said he was “extremely confused” by recent events and added he hoped Perera would have a successful career from now on.
“Before this tour he would have been in the T20 World Cup, opening up with (Tillakaratne) Dilshan, which would have been a huge advantage,” said Sangakkara, now retired from international cricket and playing for English county side Surrey.
“I’m extremely confused as to what’s happened. The labs in Qatar came back with an adverse finding in one of his urine samples and they named him, with the steroid that was found. Suddenly, over the last two days, they’ve withdrawn that and said ‘we might have made a mistake’.
“The poor boy has been out for quite a long time. He’s very young, 25, one of the most exciting talents we have.”
Asked if Sri Lanka should fly Perera, whose three Tests have already yielded two fifties, to England, Sangakkara replied: “I hope they do, because I think when you’ve gone through something like that, the best thing you can do is to be allowed to play cricket again.
“But the sad fact is that, I think, when you are provisionally banned, you can’t even train or use the facilities that international teams use.”
Sangakkara added: “Unfortunately, Sri Lanka have lost a remarkable player for quite a long time now and hopefully he’ll have a very successful career from here on in.”
Speaking in Colombo earlier on Thursday, Perera said he had gone through “tremendous mental stress” and indicated that returning for Sri Lanka’s home series with Australia in July was probably a more realistic goal.
Sangakarra, one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation, retired from the international game last year with a superb record of 12,400 runs at an average of more than 57 with 38 hundreds.
Last month, he scored 171 for Surrey against Somerset at The Oval in the County Championship.
But the 38-year-old left-hander, appearing on a platform with England pacemen Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, said he had no regrets.
“I think I’ve had my time facing Stuart (Broad) and Jimmy (Anderson) and fast bowlers at international level,” said Sangakkara.
“I thought I might miss it more, but I am quite at peace with the decision I’ve made.”