Rex Clementine, from the Sunday Island, 24 June 2017, with the title “Shame on Sri Lanka Cricket” ... with the highlighting being the intervention of The Editor, Cricketique
On Saturday, exactly at 1:00pm, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) confirmed what we all feared. They had parted ways with one of the best coaches in the world – Graham Xavier Ford. Given the national cricket team’s poor run in recent times, that has seen Sri Lanka slip down to number eight in ODI and T-20 cricket and number seven in Test cricket, SLC has faced intense criticism and the easiest thing in any sporting environment under such circumstances is to get rid of the coach. However, for cricket’s present debacles, placing the blame on Ford’s doorstep is as good as changing pillows for headaches.
Currently the national cricket team is like the National List of the Parliament. The National List is meant to bring in country’s highly educated and resourced persons into Parliament. Luminaries like Lakshman Kadirgamar and Professor G.L. Pieris made their parliament debuts through the National List. But in modern day politics, the National List is meant for political rejects. Similarly, although the national cricket team is meant for the best talented, at the moment we see people entertaining their whims and fancies. Otherwise, how on earth can we use 45 players in two years in ODI cricket. The only reason why Sachith Pathirana has featured regularly in the national team in recent times is because his father has control over six votes at the cricket AGM. Other talented left-arm spinners like Malinda Pushpakumara and Amila Aponso are left in the lurch.
So, Ford is not the only person to be blamed for Sri Lanka’s disappointing run in recent times. SLC Chief Thilanga Sumathipala and Chairman of Selectors Sanath Jayasuriya are equally responsbile. If they have any self-respect given Sri Lanka’s steady decline in the last two years, both of them should do a Ford and resign from their positions.
For some time now. it was clear that SLC was gunning for Ford. There was confirmation that Ford was under fire when Sumathipala pointed fingers at the coach for the slow over rate against South Africa that saw Upul Tharanga being suspended for two games. The reality is that someone from the dressing room could do little to improve the over rate. Sumathipala instead should have turned his weapons towards the team’s misfiring, undisciplined fast bowlers.
Trouble started with the arrival of Asanka Gurusinha to the national set up. Gurusinha’s role should have been more to do with the administrative side of the team, but SLC allowed him to interfere with the affairs of the team and Ford naturally took exception to it.
With due respect, Asanka Gurusinha is one of the finest cricketers the country has produced, but the very fact that he has been away from the international game for more than two decades means that he has much to catch up. Furthermore, all great players are not going to end up great coaches. Sir Viv Richards and Kapil Dev’s tenure as coaches of their respective teams proved to be disastrous. On the other side of the coin, some of the finest coaches like John Buchanan, Graham Ford and Mike Hessen had modest first-class careers.
On return home from Champions Trophy, Ford was pleading with SLC to stop interfering with the affairs of the team. The board told him that he could either move on with the system or leave. He opted for the latter.
Astute employers have their ways of getting things done. Let’s say an employer didn’t like an employee who is heading a certain department in a company, the best way to undermine him is to deviate some of his responsibilities to one of his subordinates. That’s exactly what Thilanga Sumathipala has done to get rid of Graham Ford and he has conveniently used one of Sri Lanka’s much-loved cricketers to achieve his means – Asanka Gurusinha is his name.
We are sure life will come a full circle for Mr. Gurusinha too. ‘As you sow, so shall you reap.’
Having covered Sri Lankan cricket extensively, we have nothing but high praise for Graham Ford. In our books he is as good as Tom Moody although the two men had completely different styles. His coaching style can be summed up in four words and that is, ‘work, work and more work’.
When Ford first arrived in Sri Lanka in 2012, Kumar Sangakkara all of a sudden found a new edge to his ODI game. Sangakkara’s career best in ODIs is the 169 he made against South Africa at RPS in 2013. This is what he told us after the knock. “Graham Ford has been very insistent that we work on reverse sweeps, sweeps and paddle sweeps. We have been doing that because Graham has designated specific net sessions for us for new kind of stroke making. We go on the bowling machine and try paddle sweeping fast bowlers,” noted Sanga.
When Sunday Island met him recently, Sanga sensed what was coming for the highly respected coach and came up with these words. “I think Sri Lanka has one of the best coaches in the world in Graham Ford. Looking from the outside, it’s very important that the Head Coach has the complete freedom and authority to decide the path of progress for the team. There are lots of well intentioned and capable people in our set up traveling with the team in the coaching set up or advisory roles. All their views must be aligned to that of the Head Coach and the Head Coach’s path for progress and improvement must be one. That has to be adhered to by everyone,” noted Sanga.
Sanga must be feeling disappointed with how Ford has been treated as he played a huge role in getting him to coach the national team again. Sri Lanka’s reputation among elite cricket coaches wasn’t all that great after how a previous board had treated Geoff Marsh. Ford was with Surrey when SLC first approached him in January 2015. He refused to take up the position point blank. Then SLC bosses approached Sangakkara, Surrey’s overseas signing. In good faith Sanga persuaded Ford to take up the role. Ford reluctantly agreed. Today Sanga has been left with egg on the face. There’s one golden lesson for Sanga out of this episode. That is never trust the guardians of Sri Lankan cricket.
EDITORIAL NOTE: In the light of this interpretation from Rex Clementine, I ask ASANGA: “Is this a repetition of Ranatungas-Squared upon Gurusinha?”