Sa’adi Thawfeeq, in The Nation
From Davenall Whatmore to Trevor Bayliss, Sri Lanka had a great run of success in international cricket for 16 years when they won an ICC Cricket World Cup, reached three ICC World Cup finals and was ranked No. 2 in both Test and One-Day Internationals. Now all that is about to change with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) unceremoniously sacking former Australia cricketer and coach Geoff Marsh just four months into his two-year contract. The manner in which Marsh was shown the door by the newly-elected SLC officials was “just not cricket” if one is to use cricket parlance. The action of SLC has more or less closed the door for any future coaches from Australia and around the world undertaking any future assignments in Sri Lanka.
After struggling without a proper coach for two successive series’ the interim committee headed by Upali Dharmadasa decided that Marsh was the right man to take Sri Lanka cricket forward and signed him on a two-year contract. Little was Marsh to know what was to be in store for him after handling just the two series’ against Pakistan and South Africa. The very same individuals who thought so highly of Marsh as coach suddenly did a U-turn to sack him after just two series, hardly giving him an opportunity to find his feet and prove his credentials as coach. For the record Marsh was a member of Australia’s World Cup winning side of 1987 and coach of the Australian side when they won the World Cup in 1999. He was a highly respected coach in Australia and around the world and his sudden sacking has not only shocked the entire cricket world at large, but brought upon SLC the wrath of past cricketers both locally and internationally. It is not just the results obtained in the series that goes to make a good coach but how much of input he brings to the team. In that aspect Marsh had according to some senior players not been lacking at all.
What was so shocking about the whole episode is that Marsh’s sacking comes on the back of Sri Lanka’s maiden Test victory in South Africa and after they had chased down totals of 300 plus in successive ODIs and won them both after being dismissed for a pathetic 43 in the first ODI.
Maybe the Test and the ODI series were lost, but that doesn’t make Marsh a bad coach. If results obtained are to be used as a yardstick then India should give their coach Duncan Fletcher the boot for the team being white-washed 4-0 apiece by England and Australia in Tests. The players themselves have admitted that they were to blame largely for the defeats in South Africa because they didn’t perform to expectations as a team and excel in all three departments.
The media release from SLC reads: “Under Dilshan’s leadership we did very well to beat South Africa in a Test match for the first time in their home soil. We lost the ODI series 3-2, however the series could have gone either way, we were unlucky that Duckworth Lewis came into the equation in the 3rd ODI – otherwise we would be reading a different script. Our National team ended the series on a high, by beating the Proteas in the last two one-day internationals, chasing totals of 300 plus runs which is an exceptional achievement. We infused young blood into the Test and one-day series in South Africa, we are proud to state, that Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne and Thisara Perera proved to the cricketing world that they belong to the international arena.”
Now doesn’t this also involve Marsh as well and the contribution he has made to the team’s successes in South Africa, or does SLC think that it was achieved only by the players and the back-up staff. It seems that there is more to it that led to the firing of Marsh. It is alleged that wrong signals about Marsh was given by a member of the coaching staff after he (Marsh) had ordered one of them out from team meetings for leaking out information to the junior players. This resulted in a calculated campaign to oust him being started by a government controlled newspaper that splashed a lead story saying that Marsh was more interested in watching his son’s progress playing for Australia rather than concentrating on the job at hand. Further accusations against him by individuals on tour was that he didn’t show any concern when Sri Lanka was dismissed for their lowest ODI score at Paarl and that he hardly spoke to players between sessions. What SLC must understand is that each individual coach has his way of getting about his job. If SLC is going to act on senseless complaints they have received by people perhaps with vested interests, it just goes to show how incompetent and gullible they are at making decisions of this magnitude. The removal of Marsh shows that they have acted in a totally unprofessional manner and questions their ability to administer cricket.