Rex Clementine, in Sunday Island, 18 July 2015, where the title reads, “Hathurusingha has transformed Bangladesh cricket”
In just over a year, the way Chandika Hathurusingha has transformed Bangladesh cricket has been truly amazing. The former Sri Lankan opener was appointed as Head Coach of Bangladesh in May last year and many predicted a turnaround for the lowest ranked cricket team in the world, but the success they have enjoyed in recent times was hardly imaginable then. When he took over, Hathurusingha was asked about his immediate target and entering the second round of the ICC Cricket World Cup excited him. This Bangladesh achieved by reaching the quarter-finals knocking out England in the deciding game in Adelaide.
But it’s their journey after the World Cup that has been exciting. Since the World Cup, they have achieved three successive series wins against Pakistan, India and South Africa. Currently they are ranked seventh in ICC ODI Championship above West Indies and Pakistan. True Bangladesh are yet to consistently win away from home and excel in Test cricket. But after being minnows for 15 long years, their sudden rise is an indication that exciting times are ahead.
Having started his coaching career with his former club Tamil Union, Hathurusingha had a couple of breaks overseas before being brought into coach Sri Lanka ‘A’. It was with the ‘A’ team that people acknowledged his coaching credentials as he helped a couple of players who had been dropped from the senior side to find their way back to Test cricket.
Thilan Samaraweera and Russel Arnold are cases in point and Samaraweera in particular when he made a comeback to the side in 2008 was a totally different player. Known for his ability to play the anchor role, Samaraweera when he made a comeback to the side was willing to attack frequently. That he went onto represent the country in the 2011 World Cup was partly due to what Hathurusingha had done to Samaraweera’s mindset and his attitude towards batting.
A host of young players like current captain Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal too benefited during his time with Sri Lanka ‘A’. Captain Kumar Sangakkara felt the presence of Hathurusingha in the senior side could help his team immensely and he was drafted into the senior team management as ‘Shadow Coach’. Hathurusingha impressed everyone during his tenure in his new role and was quite popular. But a misunderstanding with Sri Lanka Cricket officials saw him being downgraded from his role.
There were numerous calls to bring him back to his former role. Captain Sangakkara in fact wrote a moving appeal requesting then SLC head D.S. de Silva and Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga to reinstate Hathurusingha in his position. Sangakkara went onto add that once Head Coach Trevor Bayliss’ tenure ended, Hathurusingha had the knowledge, skills and the ability to take over as Head Coach.
D.S. and Nishantha were people with massive egos and they wouldn’t reverse their decision. Hathurusingha migrated to Sydney. Bayliss, who took over as the Head Coach of New South Wales after his tenure ended with Sri Lanka recommended Hathurusingha to a coaching role with the state and his progress continued in Australia before he was hired by Bangladesh.
An Editor’s Note: Like his elder brother DH, DS de Silva was (and remains) a strict disciplinarian. This leaning led him to adopt a bureaucratic attitude when Hathurusingha left the SLC touring team in Zimbabwe to pursue a coaching course in Australia that had been arranged beforehand with SLC permission – an arrangement jeopardized by subsequent re-workings of the tour programme. SO Ds de Silva was guilty of inflexibility in my opinion then.
Hathuru had impressed me greatly in my interactions with him and I felt then that this split was a great loss to SL cricket. I will write a separate piece on the topic. Michael Roberts