Rumesh Ratnayake talks Oman and T20 Cricket

Allaam Ousman, in Sunday Observer, 22 November 2015. where the title is “Sri Lanka won’t defend T20 World Cup” … and where he wanted Mathews to take the captaincy reins 

A=RUMESH Former Sri Lanka fast bowler Rumesh Ratnayake is backing minnows like Oman to make an impact at the World T-20 next year in India but contends that Sri Lanka will come-back empty-handed as no team will be able to repeat what has been done in the 50-over format. Oman is coached by Ratnayake’s former team-mate and Sri Lanka captain Duleep Mendis. “They (Oman) were in division five and for them to have qualified for the T20 World Cup surprised a lot of people. The passion I saw in the players all of whom are non-professional, the commitment they had when I saw them in May, was huge. I knew they had something special but they even surprised me by qualifying for the World Cup,” said Ratnayake who could be sitting in their dug- out during the biennial tournament to be held in India next year.

“I was doing an assignment for Oman to look after their fast bowlers because they have qualified for the World T20 next year. I did one programme with them in May this year. Also, they asked me whether I could do programmes with them in the months before the World Cup and hope I could join them for the World Cup. That’s a decision which is just pending because I live in Australia,” said Ratnayake who stepped down as Development Officer of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) in July after serving for 14 years in countries like Hong Kong, Nepal, Malaysia, China, Bhutan and the Maldives.

The Oman side is made up of Indian and Pakistan expats and Ratnayake said the work done by the Asian body was reaping dividends. “As ACC we are very fortunate and we can talk about how Hong Kong, Nepal, Afghanistan and UAE qualified for World Cups which was a unique thing. Everyone recognises that it was the effect of the ACC which made it happen,” said Ratnayake who has started his own academy in Melbourne called RR Cricket Academy since August 1.

But Ratnayake, who played in 23 Tests and 70 ODIs from 1982 to 1993, is not optimistic of Sri Lanka’s chances of defending the World T20 title which they won in Bangladesh last year. “It’s very hard, isn’t it? If you see the trend, nobody has won back-to-back (in T20). Only in 50-over (World Cup) has Australia done it. That was unique because they had great teams and they performed as well. But in T20 it is very hard to see a team winning back-to-back (titles) because even the weakest teams, if they do what they have to do on that particular day, the big teams can crumble,” said Ratnayake who was consultant coach of the Sri Lanka team during the World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand this year.

“I was with the Sri Lanka team when they played against Afghanistan in the World Cup. It could have gone either way if not for Mahela’s (Jayawardene) century and Thisara’s (Perera) quick-fire knock. Even the minnows can do a surprise. The shorter the version, they can do better things,” he said.

Ratnayake also favoured the idea of having one captain for all three formats as Sri Lanka has a capable all-rounder like Angelo Mathews. “Ideally that’s a better thing because you are taking a person like Angelo who can play in Test, one-dayers and T20 easily. If he is playing in all three, I think it should be one captain unless he says it is too much of a burden,” Ratnayake said.

However, he found nothing wrong in T20 captain Lasith Malinga’s leadership skills though he wanted to see more consistency from the slinger. “Malinga has got a great head but unfortunately he is not physically fit as he was before. So maybe he is not consistent in his game because of his injuries. These are the issues which can’t justify him being captain but he has a great head to be a captain. If you take away Angelo, Malinga is the next best,” said Ratnayake.

The former Sri Lanka swing ace also called for better management of fast bowlers to prevent burn-out. “I think the intensity of the game is huge now. Sustenance of intensity and strength is not lasting unfortunately. So we should strongly look at managing players properly. Everybody gets injured. Managing is what is needed because I think we might need to give players a rest. At times, we need to monitor their strength, monitor their fitness. Those are the areas you have to view in the future to make them last longer,” said Ratnayake whose career was blighted by injuries.

“This is one of the things I noticed in the World Cup also. There was huge burn out. All the bowlers we had were world class and if they are match winners, why didn’t they do well. It’s because they burn out, meaning we haven’t managed the players. So we have to manage them properly,” he stressed.

Although Sri Lanka could boast of a bench strength to pick fast bowlers unlike in the past, Ratnayake felt they should be groomed for two years before being thrown into the international cauldron. “He (bowler) should go through the mill by playing a season or two. I would prefer two seasons before he comes into the big scene. I personally feel no bowler should come into the national team before he is ready,” argued Ratnayake.

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