Sa’adi Thawfeeq, courtesy of The Nation 3 May 2015 where the title is “More ‘A’ team tours in the pipeline for the year”
Sri Lanka ‘A’ may have won the three-match one-day series against Pakistan ‘A’ when they took an unbeatable 2-0 lead with a win in the second game played at Hambantota on Wednesday, but their main aim to provide a steady flow of players to the senior team remains a major concern. “Winning is the key for me in any form of game but at the same time if we can produce a few players to the national side then my role as coach is fulfilled. The major factor I see is discipline,” Romesh Kaluwitharana, the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team coach for the past five years told The Nation.
“If players want to play a big role they will have to work really hard at their game. The work ethics, time and energy they put in wanting to achieve something and the sacrifices they need to make to become a player. We have enough talent and with our little resources we have produced world class players. We don’t have facilities like other countries but with the little we have, we have won a cricket World Cup, a T20 World Cup and become two-time runner-up. But talent alone is not enough to make you a top level professional cricketer,” said Kaluwitharana, a member of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning side.
“Over the years the facilities have improved from our time. When we played we didn’t have a gym, we didn’t have coaches in every department. Today you have physios, trainers, masseurs, computer analysts all what the players need. What they don’t have is the drive, the energy to give 100 percent to the game that is what is lacking.
“Distractions are everywhere. Other countries have more distractions than in Sri Lanka but the players have the discipline not to get attracted to things which will prove a setback to their cricket. It’s the discipline that we don’t have,” Kaluwitharana pointed out.
“Discipline depends on the individual. Take (Kumar) Sangakkara he comes to the net, he works hard does a lot of homework and does things what you and me would not even think of doing that is commitment to be on top.
“What we do is we tell the players morning, noon and night. You can take the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink. That is very sad but it’s happening not only now it happened earlier also. During our time there has been players like that who lack commitment. Today cricket has gone to another level, it’s more commercial, more incentives to players and that can be a distraction, and lead to the lack of discipline.”
The need for commitment by the younger generation of players has only compounded the task of the former Sri Lanka wicket-keeper/batsman dubbed as “Little Kalu” by the late cricket commentator Tony Greig.
“For an ‘A’ team player to go straight into the national side is not a good thing,” said Kaluwitharana. “If a new player comes to the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team and performs well and shows a lot of promise, only performance will not take him straightaway into the national side, he has to be geared in other aspects also.
“He must play a series abroad if not more in the case of some players in different conditions and wickets and get his confidence levels up. We need to build a player, adjusting to conditions, how he handles pressure, and how he can continue his consistency. Some players come and go that should not happen.
“I believe in players getting more experience at ‘A’ level. They should be ready then to take the next step to the national team, ready meaning in their batting and very importantly fielding and fitness levels. These days what we are looking at is the fitness. In domestic cricket they are only worried about the batting and bowling part because they want to win tournaments. It’s understandable for a club coach to try and win as many tournaments as possible but at the end of the day if they have not produced any players good enough to play for the country they have not done their part,” he said.
“We all know that our domestic cricket is not all that competitive and that there is a big gap between domestic and international cricket. So playing ‘A’ team cricket is essential for a player to bridge that gap.”
Kaluwitharana, 45 was of the belief that the more time a player spends with the ‘A’ team the better it is for him to feel comfortable when he makes it to the senior side.
“Some players mature very fast for example a cricketer like Angelo Mathews matured very fast for a youngster and he was mature enough to captain when he was really young,” said Kaluwitharana.
“Some players take a long time to mature. They don’t know how to manage their innings, their lives it’s all about discipline not excelling only with bat and ball. That’s why it’s important for an ‘A’ team player to show consistency and discipline so that he becomes a complete product – high in confidence level to play in front of big crowds under the cameras, in different conditions and be able to bat at any position.
“Most players prefer certain positions which should not be the case. He should be prepared to bat in any position. I really concentrate on the bowlers batting and spend a lot of time with them. The game has changed from our days tailenders also need to contribute and make runs.”
Kaluwitharana said that at ‘A’ level more than technique it was mental coaching that was required. “What we do is to fine tune the talent they have so that they can be successful cricketers in the national team. It’s more work on the mind than anything else giving them confidence and how to cope with pressure etc. We make a platform for the cricketers to be in their comfort zone so that they can play their own game. We want to make a better environment for them to perform at their own game. It’s like in classroom, there are bright students and there are students who take time to grasp what is being taught.”
Kaluwitharana said the ideal calendar for the ‘A’ team would be four tours annually two outbound and two inbound. “The more they play outside the better for them. The ideal situation is for an ‘A’ team series to take place ahead of a senior tour, that’s how other countries are doing it. If that happens, it will provide the perfect platform.”
Sri Lanka Cricket having realized the importance of such tours has arranged two more series for the ‘A’ side during the year. South African ‘A’ is due in July and Sri Lanka ‘A’ will tour New Zealand in October.