I. Sa’adi Thawfeeq: “Ford calls for patience as Sri Lanka rebuild,” item in ESPNcricinfo, February 2016
“I know there is an abundance of talent within the system, but it is about identifying those who have got the mental toughness to go on and become consistent players and match-winners at international level.”
Jerome Jayaratne, Sri Lanka Cricket’s head of coaching, who took charge of the team on a temporary basis when Marvan Atapattu resigned as coach in Sri Lanka, is expected to be appointed full-time assistant coach. Ford said it was important to draw on his experience, and for the entire Sri Lankan cricket set-up to work together.
“It’s quite a long process which is required. A lot of hard work, not just for me but all involved, particularly Jerome who has been involved in Sri Lanka cricket for a long time, knows the players so well and has a wealth of knowledge technically and tactically. It’s important to have his input, and also to have the selectors and the board all working together to ensure the long-term process can take place so that we can take Sri Lanka back to the top of the international stage.”
Jayaratne is also expected to play the role of team manager, a position previously held by Jeryl Woutersz. Ford’s first assignment is the three-match T20 international series in India, which he said would be a tough beginning, but one he could use to find out how good the team is at present.
SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala said Ford was one of 12 coaches his board interviewed for the post, and he was confident they had made the right choice. “We have secured the services of one of the best coaches in the world,” Sumathipala said. “We have appointed him for 45 months [from February 1] so that he covers the 2019 World Cup in England, where he has first-hand knowledge of the conditions having coached the counties.”
Sumathipala also thanked Kumar Sangakkara for playing a pivotal role in securing the services of Ford from English county Surrey, which Sangakkara represents.
Ford had already coached Sri Lanka for two years, beginning in early 2012. He had been linked to the Sri Lanka job since the middle of 2015, but had declined to resume the role ahead of the SLC election – and hence change of administration – in January.
His appointment will end a five-month search for a head coach, following Marvan Atapattu’s resignation from the position in early September. SLC’s interim committee had approached both Ford and Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusinghe in the intervening months, but both men had had reservations about taking the job in a time of administrative upheaval.
The election of a new board in January, and the defeat of the Nishantha Ranatunga-led faction in those elections, helped pave the way for Ford’s return. Ford had cited family reasons for his departure from the Sri Lanka job in 2014, but is understood to have had issues with Sri Lanka Cricket, at the time.
Ford is highly rated by Sri Lanka players, and the feeling had been mutual. He had spoken of his first stint as being “very, very special” ahead of his final Test in charge, in 2014. “I will sit at home for many years to come thinking about the great players and great people who I’ve worked with in Sri Lanka,” Ford had said.
His reputation for being good with young players had been among the reasons the new board offered Ford the job, as the national team continues its transition following high-profile retirements. The length of Ford’s contract period is also expected to bring some much-needed stability to the role. Sri Lanka have had eight head coaches – including interim appointments – since 2011.
Ford’s appointment ended his two-year stint at Surrey, who were resurgent under his watch. They returned to county cricket’s top tier after winning the division two title and also finished runners-up in the 50-over cup in 2015.
“We are extremely disappointed to be losing Graham Ford who has not just been an outstanding head coach but has played an integral role in the progress that we have achieved over the last two years,” Surrey’s director of cricket Alec Stewart said. “He has worked tirelessly with the players and his efforts can be seen in their individual performances and the team’s results, culminating in promotion back to the first division.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando