Asia Cup - ideal test to judge our strength - Mohan de Silva
By Bernie Wijesekera
"Sri Lanka cricket must build a strong outfit for the World Cup - 2007.A balanced team. A blend of youth and experience. The forthcoming Asia Cup to be staged here, next month will be an ideal barometer to judge our standards" said the President of Sri Lanka Cricket, Mohan de Silva in an interview with The Sunday Times.

De Silva made these comments to a question posed to him with regard to the preparation for the next World Cup to be staged in the Caribbean (W. Indies - 2007).

Q: With India and Pakistan grooming young blood with an eye for the future, what have Sri Lanka cricket administrators and the selectors done to overcome, with some of the seniors apparently losing their vim and vigour, with years rolling by?
Our cupboards are empty with regard to talented players to take over. Mahela Jayawardena and Marvan Atapattu, failed during the last World Cup in 2003 held in South Africa. Some of the seniors have not shown consistency. But there was no one with potential to replace them.

Q: What's the remedy?
We must focus much attention to give that much-needed exposure to the young prospects to indulge in competitive cricket regularly at home and away against international 'A' teams of equal strength. They should be on the wings to be drafted at short notice to the national team. To achieve this objective the S.L.C. has invested much on the 'A' team.

We took over office in 2003, when the administration was found wanting. Quick to move in and arrange reciprocal 'A' team tours against S.Africa, Zimbabwe, India and New Zealand. The likes of Ian Daniel, Rangana Herath, Tilina Kandambi were among the members of the team. But we are not happy with the results. However, it takes time. One can't be performing miracles overnight.
Playing conditions

Q. Anything to do with the varying playing conditions whilst playing away from home?
Excuses are not the panacea for the ills. They must adjust themselves and possess mental toughness. Apparently teams making tours to the sub-continent have to play on dust bowls. They have adjusted themselves admirably. Good example - the Indian team playing in Australia playing on fast bouncy pitches came on top. The experienced Lankan batsmen will have to adjust their techniques and do likewise.
They are all professionals at present times and play a professional game de Silva said.

Q. The young players need regular exposure in competitive cricket at international level - 'One Swallow does not make a Summer'?
You are right. We have made a close scrutiny and have studied the process and have taken corrective steps.

Q. What's your next 'A' team tour?
A tour to England.

Q. It's heartening to see Mike Tissera has been harnessed to cricket management to handle the 'A' team. Soft-spoken Tissera has the acumen to uplift the game among the youngsters.
Tissera is the ideal person to handle a young team. The S.L.C. made the correct choice. Like a horse to the course. He has the correct credentials to handle the 'A' team and build it for the future betterment of the game. He's on a six-month contract. The youngsters have much to learn from him on and off the field.
Time that we forget petty issues. Forget the past. All must join hands and work for the right reasons. Put the country before self.

Q. There is much talk about Stan Nell's appointment as 'A' Team coach?
He has been contracted for two years. Stan has all the ingredients to be a competent coach. Has been the head coach for the Victoria Cricket Centre, and to the Monash University. He has prepared and delivered coaching programmes - including budget on a yearly basis. Also served as head coach for Hawthorn and Monash University and has administrative skills, too. The S.L.C. wants to enhance the scope of the local Academy by infusing modern techniques to and methods pertaining to present-day International cricket.
Look at cricket Australia - their base is sound - with an administration totally committed. The Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy, in Adelaide, is run by men that matter. Their 'A' team forms the nucleus. It's oozing with talent. Could walk into the national team at any given time. Talented Michael Clarke was one of them who was here in the last Aussie tour.

Q. Mike and Stan could be an ideal combination?
Yes. Stan, serving from the base and Tissera moving the ball for the youngsters and for Sri Lanka cricket to enjoy a better tomorrow.

Q. The S.L.C. has not put old wine in a new bottle, but new wine in an old bottle?

Q. The recent tour to Zimbabwe there were records aplenty to be etched in the Record Books (The Wisden)?
No doubt it was a great achievement. But apparently against a mediocre team. With all these personal efforts, Sri Lanka is still placed seventh in the Test Table. The players and the administrators must make a concerted effort to put other issues to the backyard to uplift the game where Lankan cricket reached the Everest after winning the W.C. in 1996. The best advertisement after orange pekoe tea (worldwide)

Q. Don't you think it should have been better, the Lankan team in the recent tour of Zimbabwe gave playing opportunities to the youngsters in the side against the beleaguered Zimbabwe side?
Totally agree with you. The tour management should have rested some of the seniors in the team for the Second test and played the likes of Ian Daniel, Kandambi instead. Individual records don't serve the team's cause for the future. In the end records are forgotten, but the team's success that matters to uplift the country's image said, de Silva.

Q. Any comments about the composition of the selection panel?
Yes, a panel of five could have been appropriate. The likes of Madurusinghe and Don Arunasiri have been included to oversee the provinces and spot talented players and give them the adequate opportunities to compete at the top level. There are two sides in a coin. Let's leave it there.

Q. What have you got to say about the SLC finances. There is much talk floating around that there is a financial crisis. Any comments?
You are right. At this juncture, we are faced with a crisis. Mainly due to over capitalisation and Sri Lanka cricket not being able to secure appropriate commercial values mainly due to the instability in the administration. Also due to adverse media publicity which has tarnished cricketing image locally and internationally. However we are slowly, but surely rebuilding our image that, too with a proper re-structuring programme. Within a couple of weeks could come out of the crisis. We are confident of the future.

Q. Why only two test matches and a solitary side game for the coming tour to Australia?
Australia has a tight schedule. This is the only period that they could accommodate us. The fixtures were planned well ahead. No ad-hoc decisions. No one could be blamed. The one-dayers have already been played in the year 2002 December to year 2003 January. This was done purely to overcome Sri Lanka's financial difficulties. Instead of three one-dayers - eight matches - four each against Australia and England - in the VB series. The SLC is grateful to Cricket Australia.

Q. What have you got say about the ongoing Muralitheran's 'doosra' delivery which has stirred a hornet's nest?
We need the support of all Sri Lankans. SLC is part of the ICC and has to respect and abide by its decision. But strongly urge them to review the current levels and think rationally considering the principles of natural justice in their decision-making process. Decide a permanent solution and close its chapter once and for all. Murali has suffered immensely as a result. 'Justice delayed, Justice denied' said Mohan de Silva.


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