As a matter of fact, how many days of sunshine you get for a year. Yet, you tend to forget that all, but, remember that dark cloudy and stormy day when lightening switched your lights out for an hour. No cause for repent or being subjective, it is human nature – you tend to believe [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Little Kalu’s giant crusade


As a matter of fact, how many days of sunshine you get for a year. Yet, you tend to forget that all, but, remember that dark cloudy and stormy day when lightening switched your lights out for an hour. No cause for repent or being subjective, it is human nature – you tend to believe and remember what you choose to, the rest are placed on a shelf in the memory-box, sometimes never to be re-visited.
You may remember well, the catastrophic twin visits that the Lankan ‘A’ lads made to South Africa and Zimbabwe some moons ago. On unfamiliar conditions where the ball was seaming and bouncing the Lankan batsmen pressed the nine-pin mode and committed hara-kiri.

I think that shock made some of the block-heads at Maitland Place and Maligawatte sit and ponder and make some finer adjustments to their ‘A’ team thinking.

Sharing the opinion with his team and players

There is no other man in this little island to explain the transformation than Sri Lanka’s ‘A’ team coach “Little Kalu” (Romesh Kaluwitharana). He was the coach when the Lankans made that disastrous tour of the South African sub-continent. Yet, since then the wheels have turned; now the Lankan ‘A’ team have had two good series behind their belts. In those two series the ‘A’ team lads did what was expected from them. The batters did their job. The bowlers did their job and at last there was a huge sigh of relief. The happiest were the Lankan selectors, who were somewhat groping in the dark looking for replacements to the national grid.

Little Kalu explained the change of stance.

He said: “There was a point of time where we had a bulk of work, but, it was not directional. For instance, when the national players were involved with a limited overs series the Test players were training with us and when there was a Test series the limited overs guys were training with us. However, the last two ‘A’ series there was a distinct difference. I felt it especially when we were preparing to play against New Zealand ‘A’. At this point I had a pool of players training under me to play a series against the Kiwi ‘A’ team. Here me and my team – Champaka Ramanayake (bowling coach), Trainer – Mario Villvarayen, Fielding Coach – Manoj Abeywickrema, Ranjith Nanayakkaravasam (Physio) Lal Thamal (Masseur), Duleep Samarasekera (video analyst) and Manager Jayantha Seneviratne came together and pooled all our resources to reap the harvest.”

At this point, we asked Kaluwitharana what his real job profile was: Is it to run a successful ‘A’ team or produce cricketers to cater to the requirements of the national team? Then Kaluwitharana explained that he is in constant touch with the national selectors and they keep informing about their requirements and what they are looking at. So it becomes a two-prong duty — one is the interests of the national requirements and the other, keeping the young brood battle worthy.

Kaluwitharana said: “The top four — Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena, T.M. Dilshan and Lasith Malinga — may not go on for too long. So we are on the lookout for another opening batsman. We need two batsmen to occupy the No. 3 and 4 slots. We are also in the lookout for a good fast bowler who is consistent and taking wickets. Right now none of these replacements may match the skills of the seniors, but history shows that Sri Lanka has always filled in the blanks. For instance, people thought when Aravinda and Murali stopped their cricket the Lankan cricket era was over, but, see Mahela and Kumar came into the scene and they climbed to the top of the world cricket ladder. So what I say is with maturity some of the new comers may do the same as their predecessors.”

Kaluwitharana explained that it is not only taking the players through the on-field activity that matters. “There is a lot more. Some of these players are used to the wickets on our own backyard. That was one of the lessons that we learned. The seaming and bouncy wickets are alien to them. Now we have developed some methods that we put them through. All the batsmen go through that mill and get used to playing balls at various levels coming at them at 140km and over. They face balls that are in various degrees — new, slightly old and balls which are around the 80-over state. This new method has proved to be successful. During the last tour and the last series we saw our batsmen tackling ball coming towards them at 140km an hour and they took on them with consummate ease,” the former swashbuckling opener said.

“Another thing that we adopted was the wickets. We prepared the wickets at Pallekelle and Dambulla to have life in them, so that the bowlers and the batsmen had equal chances. However on these wickets nothing was served on a platter; players from both sides of the wicket had to work hard for results, and if they were willing to work hard, the results were there”.

However, Kaluwitharana said another vital point is that, “we must get the Lankan clubs also prepare good positive wickets for the local tournaments, without preparing breaking wickets to suit their narrow purposes.”

At the same time Kaluwitharana was happy that Sri Lanka Cricket is now wise on the subject and is making certain measures to correct the situation. “There is a huge gap between international cricket and the Lankan Club cricket; we must draw up plan and make them work so that the gap would not remain the same for too long”.

The Sunday Times then asked him whether he could name some players who had impressed him and were ready to take up the next call. Kaluwitharana said, “There are a few players who have been impressive. They will have to keep improving and get mentally strong to take up the challenges that are thrown at them at the highest level.”

He added, “Dimuth Karunaratne is one player who has improved and showed promise in both forms of the game. Then Kaushal Silva – I am very impressed with his batting style. He is a player who is ready for the next step. Then players like Ashan Priyanjana, Chathuranga de Silva, Kithruwan Vithanage, Angelo Perera, and Udara Jayasundera who was unfortunately injured during the last series, but he is an impressive player.”

Among the ‘A’ bowlers, Kaluwitharana was especially impressed with paceman Nuwan Pradeep who kept to a lively pace throughout the series and off spinner Dilruwan Perera who now has really understood his role and is willing to take up the challenge. Kaluwitharana also said that Dilruwan Perera has the added advantage of being a top order batsman.

Finally speaking about Kusal Janith Perera, he said that he was a batsman who has the potential of playing in all forms of the game. “But, he has to understand his value as a batsman and put a prize on his head. He should learn the art of converting his innings according to the call of the situation”.

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