Rex Clementine… in a wide-ranging review which slashes the SLC cricket administration … Island, 9 April 2017
Sri Lanka’s ‘A’ team made a huge impact when they toured South Africa in 2009. No Sri Lankan team has done so well in South Africa. The fast and bouncy wickets in that country has always proved to be the undoing of batsmen who had been brought up on low and slow surfaces. The man who guided Sri Lanka to that unprecedented success was Chandika Hathurusinghe. That team was captained by Thilina Kandamby and included players like Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal and Tharanga Paranavithana.
Kumar Sangakkara was the captain of the national team at that stage. Sanga took immediate note and requested the Board to relieve Hathurusinhe of ‘A’ team duties and allow him to work with the national team.
Hathurusinghe was the understudy to Head Coach Trevor Bayliss. He was expected to take over as Head Coach after the 2011 World Cup. Someone at Sri Lanka Cricket wasn’t happy. Instead of Hathurusinghe, he wanted to introduce someone quietly who was loyal to him so that country’s senior cricketers could be controlled with an iron fist. Nishantha Ranatunga is his name. When Hathurusinghe was sacked from Sri Lanka Cricket in 2010, Chairman D.S. de Silva initiated the move, but it was Nishantha who was manipulating and maneuvering. The sacking was bizarre and on flimsy ground. The entire country was against the sacking of the coach. The only men who endorsed it were Nishantha Ranatunga and D.S. de Silva.
Sangakkara was virtually begging SLC not to get rid of Hathurusinghe. But his repeated pleas fell on deaf ears. The coach migrated to Australia. Given what Sanga had said, New South Wales, the Australian state team hired his services as the Assistant Coach. Hathurusinghe worked with players like David Warner, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and Steve O’Keefe at New South Wales. Soon he was elevated as Head Coach.
Hathurusinghe again tried to join SLC in 2014 when Paul Farbrace abandoned the team. Again Nishantha with the backing of then Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgama cut him down and promoted someone within the SLC as Head Coach. Another opportunity missed.
Impressed by what he was doing in Australia, Bangladesh hired Hathurusinghe as their Head Coach. His no nonsense approach has brought Bangladesh unexpected success in a very short time. Two years ago, they won ODI series against Pakistan, India and South Africa. Last year they beat England in a Test match. This year they have stunned Sri Lanka.
Perhaps Hathurusinghe wouldn’t have been that successful in Sri Lanka. Soon after taking the Bangladeshi job, he ran into trouble in 2014. He took on Bangladesh’s star player Shakib Al Hasan. Thankfully the Bangladesh board backed the coach. Shakib was suspended for four months for disobedience. Shakib has been truly world class this tour. He made crucial contributions in their Test, ODI and T-20 wins. Had Hathurusinghe put his foot down on a senior player in Sri Lanka, the player would have run to the President or Minister of Sports and sent the coach home. Ammapa Ape Hamaduruwane!
Hopefully the defeat to Bangladesh is a blessing in disguise. It will at least now open our administrators’ eyes to not to mess with one of country’s greatest assets.
When Thilanga Sumathipala assumed duties as President of SLC, he had a proposal for a highly competitive domestic structure at his disposal. This proposal was drafted by none other than former captain Mahela Jayawardene. Sumathipala put the proposal into the dustbin. The reason being that the proposal was on a Provincial Tournament. Sumathipala was more keen to support the clubs. He had been elected by the clubs and he wasn’t prepared to devalue the importance of club cricket, which effectively the Provincial tournament does. Instead he increased the number of clubs playing First Class cricket. Before Sumathipala we had 14 First Class teams. Now we have 24 First Class teams. Money is doled out to clubs and everyone is happy.
Last month, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara made a hue and cry that Sri Lanka Cricket has recorded huge profits. Mum’s the word on losing to Bangladesh.
These 24 clubs are existing very happily playing First Class cricket. They know that they can not be relegated either. The moment they sense relegation, they go and fix games knowing too well that everything will be hushed under the carpet. Ask Ravin Wickramaratne or Anura Weerasinghe.
After much media criticism, SLC has finally agreed to stage the Inter-Provincial tournament. Since the Champions Trophy is around the corner, this is going to be a One-Day tournament. It remains to be seen whether the same four team Provincial system is introduced to First Class cricket as well.
Sanath Jayasuriya’s approach to selection has been very much hands on. He deserves high praise for Sri Lanka’s 3-0 whitewash of Australia last year. It wouldn’t have been possible without his commitment. However, he also needs to own up to the defeats against Bangladesh.
It was a smart move to play five bowlers in Galle against Bangladesh on a flat track. Sanath initiated and insisted on that move and credit to him as Sri Lanka won handsomely. He also needs to take up the blame for playing just one fast bowler at P. Sara Oval, the best wicket for seamers in the country. Figuring out that playing at least two quicks at The Oval is child’s play. You simply can not understand how a veteran like Sanath having played over 100 Test matches had got it terribly wrong.
Then he went into the first ODI against Bangladesh without an off-spinner. Sri Lanka paid a heavy price as Bangladesh batting was heavy with left-handers.
Sanath took over as Chairman of Selectors in 2013. Since then, barring for one year, he has held the post continuously to date. At times you get the suspicion that his selections are not done on merit. Before 2015, he used to pick Ramith Rambukwella and Jeevan Mendis despite the country having much finer talents. The recipients of his dubious selections at present are Milinda Siriwardene and Sachith Pathirana. Before 2015 it was said that the orders to select Ramith and Jeevan were coming straight from Temple Trees. We wonder who is influencing now?
Cricket has put the country in the world map. It hurts deeply when the national team loses to teams like Bangladesh. The game and its future needs to protected. Cricket shouldn’t fall victim to people’s egos.
Thilanga Sumathipala, Sanath Jaysuriya, Namal Rajapaksa and Upali Dharmadasa should all be held accountable for the current mess Sri Lankan cricket is in. And as for Nishantha Ranatunga, he shouldn’t be allowed to drive down the road where Sri Lanka Cricket is.