Rex Clementine, in the Island, 8 July 2013 A bankrupt board, corruption, plumb positions for kith and kin and politicization of the sport aren’t the only legacies of D.S. de Silva and Nishantha Ranatunga as cricket administrators. They also oversaw the exodus of the best talented. Former Assistant Coach of the national cricket team Chandika Hathurusingha is a case in point. Hathurusingha as coach of Sri Lanka ‘A’ was responsible for helping several players like Thilan Samaraweera and Thilina Kandamby to reinvent their games and in 2009 was promoted to the national team to be understudy to Trevor Bayliss. Despite making steady progress, he was unceremoniously dumped in 2010. Even a written plea by then captain Kumar Sangakkara to reinstate Hathurusingha was not accepted by the two wise men of Sri Lankan cricket and that forced him to migrate to Australia. Currently Hathurusingha is in Sri Lanka having come along with four New South Wales spinners to give them experience of sub-continent conditions. Australia was quick to recognize Hathurusingha’s talent. When New South Wales (NSW) sacked their coach Anthony Stuart last year, Hathurusingha was called up on an interim basis till the end of the season and he missed out on a Sheffield Shield final narrowly. “We won seven out of nine matches. We were unlucky to miss out on the final by one point because we had a point deducted for slow over rate,” Hathurusingha explained.
After the season, Bayliss joined NSW as Head Coach and Hathurusingha is currently assisting him. In Australia’s Big Bash League (Domestic T-20 competition) they have two teams from Sydney and while Bayliss coaches Sixers, Hathurusingha coaches Thunder. He has already tasted success in the Champions League having guided Sydney Sixers to the title in 2012.
There’s been recognition from Cricket Australia as well, who have appointed him Assistant Coach for Australia’s ‘A’ team’s tour of South Africa that’s coming up in a few weeks time. The four NSW spinners whom he has brought to Sri Lanka – Steve O’Keefe, Shane Cassell, Daniel Sallens and Soumil Chhibber – are having training sessions here and have been taking part in the current under-23 tournament representing clubs like NCC, Tamil Union and CCC. O’Keefe has already played T-20 cricket for Australia.
“We have a scholarship scheme. A philanthropist and a businessman called Basil Sellers has been generous enough to sponsor our cricketers. It has been running for several years and has been very useful, but this is the first time we have tried out an overseas programme. Our focus is to improve our spin department,” Hathurusingha further said.
While Hathurusingha has made steady progress in Australia, he says he is missing Sri Lanka. “I got a good break, but nothing like coaching your country. I am missing my mother a lot as well.” When asked, whether he will consider joining the coaching staff in Sri Lanka again if given the opportunity, Hathurusingha remained non committal. “It’s hard to say. Lot of things need to be considered. It’s not only about getting the job. It’s about whether I can contribute, whether the environment is right. My whole family migrated to Australia and my kids are settling down. NSW has been nice to me. I wouldn’t say never, but I will have to think about it.”