The employment of a sports psychologist and tapping into the wealth of knowledge in Sri Lanka’s network of former players are among new coach Chandika Hathurusingha‘s first moves towards rehabilitating Sri Lanka Cricket.
“I will get Kumar Sangakkara‘s expertise and invite him to come and help us. If I don’t look for his help, then I will be wasting this opportunity I’ve been given,” Hathurusingha said to the media, following a prolonged training session with a pool of 23 players, some of whom will be travelling to Bangladesh next month.
“Not only him, but other past players such as Mahela Jayawardene and Muttiah Muralitharan will also hopefully be working with us. We will definitely try and get as much expertise out of them. Whenever they have the time, and depending on what our needs are, we will definitely be utilising them as a resource.”
It was also revealed that one of Hathurusingha’s first acts upon meeting his new charges was to ask them to answer a questionnaire consisting of 40 questions. The questionnaire was developed by Australian Sports Psychologist Dr Phil Johnsy, who has been working with Hathurusingha for the past four years.
“I met him while I was working with [BBL franchise] Sydney Thunder. I was introduced to him by Michael Hussey, who was using him as his personal psychologist. I will be hoping to bring him down from time to time, maybe four times a year depending on the availability of our time, so that we can utilise his time productively.
“I think he will be very useful both for me and the players; in fact, he has helped me quite a bit in the past in better understanding my players, both with Bangladesh and Sydney Thunder. He has also worked with Australia for the Olympics, in baseball, rugby league, and with Cricket Australia when John Buchanan was in charge.”
Johnsy will be holding his first session with the team on the January 3 and will be with them for ten days. Depending on availability, it is also a possibility he may accompany the team on some tours.
While fixing the team’s mentality is utmost among Hathurusingha’s priorities given the team’s dismal run of form in 2017, he also sees poor training habits that need to be addressed. “The biggest thing is I want to change the way they approach their training. I think that’s where we can get the biggest gain and build their confidence. And, to build their confidence, I need to change the environment; how we train and how we communicate, as well as the amount of information that keeps going in and out. So those are the areas that I think we can gain very quickly.
“There are quite a few things that I don’t think we’re doing right, that’s why we’re in this position. Like I said, it’s a very, very talented bunch. There are so many cricketers that I can see being in the world’s top five or top 10, and if they’re not doing justice to their talent then that means there are a lot of things going wrong.”
Hathurusingha’s first tour in charge will be when Sri Lanka travel to Bangladesh next month. It will be a swift reunion for both Hathurusingha and Bangladesh, who were not happy to see the Sri Lankan depart their shores after he masterminded one of the most successful periods in their cricketing history.
“It has generated a lot of interest because I’m going back. I will use the information I have on them, but they will also do the same because they know how I work. So I think there’s a benefit to both sides. It’s going to be a challenge, because we’re not performing to our capabilities and Bangladesh have been very strong at home in the last two years. So it’s going to be a challenge for us, and then Zimbabwe are also on the way up and doing well. So I think we can expect a good competition.”
Hathurusingha, though, isn’t getting caught up in the drama of his “homecoming”. “The challenge is not just about the Bangladesh tour. If I look at it like that, we will only be looking at things from match to match and react to different things – the things that happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. We need to look at the bigger picture.
“My challenge is to take this team’s performance to its highest level. We’re targeting the World Cup, which is being played with a white ball. So when it comes to ODIs and T20 cricket, I will be judging the players’ performances with one eye on the World Cup. We’ll worry about the Test team ahead of the next Test series. The challenges we will face in that Test series will be different to the challenges we face in Bangladesh. But all the white-ball cricket we play will go towards identifying players for the World Cup in 2019.”