A winning partnership with a home grown coach

May be it was the present financial constraints that really mooted this idea. Or it may because the new interim committee’s cricket think tank led by former Sri Lanka opening batsman Sidath Wettimuny has opted to look at the needs of the changing Lankan challenge from a different perspective. Yet, going for home grown talent is indeed good for the growth of the game in a Lankan way, many a pundit agrees.

At present as an internationally-exposed cricket coach Rumesh Ratnayake stands at the helm and he can share his cap with any one else in the world at the same steam.

Nevertheless when we met former national selector and national coaching committee member Jayantha Seneviratne our thoughts were on the bigger picture. The question revolved around how the coaching input could be maximised to cater to the needs of the Lankan game of cricket.

At the same time we also inquired if Sri Lanka should also formulate a national coaching blue print and a forward plan that would work on a short and long term basis. Seneviratne said, “Yes, I strongly feel that Sri Lanka should prepare a blue print in coaching as well as a guide that would take the entire cricketing train of this country in one concerted track.

“We can get some stalwarts in the calibre of Michael Tissera, Anura Tennakoon, Arjuna Ranatunga, Sidath Wettimuny and even rope in the present national captain along with the input of players like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena and formulate the blue print of Sri Lanka’s national coaching and cricketing policy.”

Jayantha Seneviratne (Pic by Sanka Vidanagama)

Seneviratne said the work should start at the very junior level, where the cricketers face an under 17 World Cup and the under 19 World Cup prior to embarking on their international engagements at the ‘A’ and national levels. He explained that if Sri Lanka could formulate a cohesive coaching plan that would identify and promote the talents from junior grades and the system develops to the crescent then the local cricketers would have a single focus with no side effects.

“The idea of having local talent comes in here. However, at the same time the cricket authorities also must be particular as to whom we are hiring. I feel that when hiring people for these jobs even from the junior levels the coaches should be cricketers who have been exposed to all kinds of cricket under many conditions. They should be coaches who are privy to the latest methods. Besides that, they also must be professionally motivated and have self belief.”

Then we pointed out about a general criticism of the Sri Lankan coaches becoming too familiar with the players and then the whole gamut of the coaching sequence breaking down with other pointed self interests creeping in over the national needs.

Yet Seneviratne was not convinced with that argument. He said “With a coach like Rumesh Ratnayake situations of that nature would not occur. He is a coach who is well recognised in the ICC circles and especially in the Asian circuit. He does not have to demand respect, with his stature it will just come in. That is why I say the coaches should be professionals”.

Seneviratne said that since 1995 when Ana Punchihewa as the then president of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka introduced Davnell Whatmore as coach, Sri Lanka has been more or less under foreign coaches. He said that may be because Whatmore was born Sri Lankan that he was able to understand the culture and the Lankan outlook of the players and yet convert their attitudes to suit the needs of the international challenges that prevailed at that time.

Seneviratne is quite convinced that for Sri Lanka to win the World Cup in 1996 the Whatmore influence helped a great deal. However, the same message does not translate where most of the other coaches were concerned. Seneviratne said a majority of the Lankan cricketers in the post-1996 era came from the outskirts. Coming from that background most of the cricketers do not come with a good English knowledge and moreover they are also a bit backward when it comes to dealing with a foreigner who speaks English.

“Here comes the main concern. May be the coach wants to explain something to a player. He calls the cricketer and tries to explain what he wants. Yet, the cricketer cannot fully understand what the coach is trying to impart. Yet, after explaining the fault of the player the coach may be satisfied with a job well done, but, in real terms the cricketer is yet in the dark and more confused than what he originally was. This is where cricketers in the calibre of Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara etc come in.

“As seniors, they not only point out to junior players their faults, but, they also help them understand what the foreign coaches are trying to explain to them on most of the occasions. Yet, this is not a fool-proof system that we are following; this may be why most of the young players find it difficult to survive once they get into the real system.”

Seneviratne also said Sri Lanka has the wherewithal to set up a facility like the coaching academy which will be a huge advantage. But, what we should strive to do is to develop quality professional local coaches who have played the game at the highest level so that they can share their experiences and the knowledge with the cricketers under their care so that the cricket and the cricketers of this country would benefit.

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