Captain Cool poses a point
World Cup captain should be appointed now
By S.R. Pathiravithana
Some people love him. Some people love to hate him. What ever their personal evaluations on this man are, everyone agrees that he is one of the most knowledgeable personalities of the game today.

In this EXCLUSIVE interview with The Sunday Times the former Sri Lanka cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga who led his country to the pinnacle of cricket protrudes that that there is a lot more that he could infuse into the development of the game in this country while explaining the mechanism of the newly formed Cricket Committee

Q: You have gone on record saying that Sri Lanka would lose to weaker teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in the near future. Now that you are heading a very powerful Cricket Committee of the SLC, do you have a vision to address the situation?
The truth is Sri Lanka lost to Bangladesh in an under 15 match recently. I have been saying this for the past so many years, but no one cared to give ear. They thought that I was more concerned about coming into the cricket board.

When you take our present lot - Marvan, Sanath, Vaas and Murali, besides Mahela and Sangakkara we do not have any resources for the future. This is the area that we have to address quickly. We started on this by discussing about a short term and a long-term plan. The short-term plan will be launched very soon. Then on the other hand we are very concerned about the school cricket structure. This area has been neglected for so long; who ever were controlling it were more concerned about hanging on to power rather than doing something towards the improvements of the game. We just want to concentrate on this and implement a programme very quickly.

Q: At the same time are you satisfied with our club and provincial cricket structure?
You take the present provincial tournament - it's a farce. Some of the matches finished within two and a half days. This is supposed to be our major first class tournament. I can remember during interim committee, which Vijaya Malalasekera headed, we were in the cricket committee. We made a proposal and were about to implement it when the board changed. Had we implemented it at that time, things would have been different and the provincial tournament would not have been such a farce. What we are going to do now is - we have had a look at some of the coaches we have. We have looked at the umpires we have. To be very honest, some of the coaches have not played proper cricket. They are the ones who are supposed to teach the school kids on how to play cricket. Some of them must have done their level one and some may have not done any coaching at all. Then in the school arena some of the masters-in-charge of cricket are coaching.

If you go back about two or two and a half decades ago when a national pool was selected there used to be about six or seven schoolboys. Now you can't get a single schoolboy even to the 'A' squad. What did the big knowledgeable administrators with management skills do? I have been pointing this out from the time I was playing cricket. I became a bad man when I spoke about these things. I am very happy that the minister took a very firm decision to appoint the Interim Committee. I hope this will have an impact for the betterment of cricket.

Q: Do you have a plan to address the situation?
We have a plan. We are hoping to restructure the provincial tournament. We are very keen to have the former national players getting involved in the process of coaching. We are very keen to see them heading the provincial system. The provincial system has been very successful in Australia and South Africa. We have got ideas and information and I have studied that system and we are very keen to implement a system similar to that. We want to start the provincial tournament on a higher note and that will be our number one tournament. We have to play it during the right time and in the right weather.

Q: You spoke about the provincial tournament, but you did not mention the club tournament.
The thing is the provincial tournament is the major tournament. Then we have to have the district tournament going. Thereafter comes the club tournament. In this structure, the clubs will feed the districts and the districts will feed the provinces. Then we are talking about sixty cricketers and not one thousand five hundred cricketers. Then if one has to get into a provincial side you have to be very good. We are hoping to divide the national players on different aspects. There may be two from the national side, two from the 'A' side, two from under 23 and two the under 19 - in that manner. Then from the districts too you can get some players. Whoever does well in the clubs will get into the districts, who ever who do well in the districts will get into the provinces. Then from the provinces you can pick the national side and the "A" team. Then the coaches also will be assessed in the same manner.

A lot of past cricketers have indicated that they are keen to get involved in the process. This is very encouraging. Very soon we are hoping to have meeting with them and get their views on how they could contribute.

Q: The Interim Committee has indicated that they are hoping to involve Tom Moody along with the Cricket Committee in the process.
We already have had a discussion on this and that is why we have not implemented anything so far. Once Moody arrives we will sit with him and spell out to him our proposals. Once he listens to our side, he too in turn may have an additional idea or two.

Q: Coming on to the senior team, our next major goal is the World Cup. Are we ready with nucleus of side for this engagement?
I personally feel that we should appoint a captain up to the next world cup right now. Who ever it is - it can be A,B or C. If we appoint him and give him the job then he has the time to build a side for the 2007 World Cup. We have a manager till the next World Cup. We have a coach who will go on till the next World Cup. Then the assistant coach who will be appointed also will go on till that time. If this is the scenario, why not appoint the captain also till the next World Cup? When I was appointed the captain for the World Cup I had about a year. I knew that I had to work with a squad. I knew that I had work with about twenty to twenty two players. At the end may be there would be one or two changes. Now if Marvan, Tom Moody and Michael Tissera are given a target and I think if we do it properly, I think we have a fairly good chance to make an impact. The conditions there will be quite similar to ours. However it is up to the selectors to pick the squad. But we will be monitoring very closely.

Q; About the incumbent lot?
This is where Moody's experience is vital. At the same time we must try and protect our seniors. Players like Jayasuriya, Vaas and Murali. If I am given the job now I will say this my twenty two and this is what I am going to play with during the next two years, and we will pick the last fourteen just prior to the tournament. I think the captain, coach and the manager should be given the responsibility.

Q; How do you see a local performing the duties of the assistant coach?
I saw the usefulness of a local assistant coach long time ago. In real terms one needs a local coach at this elevation. So far we have had so many foreign coaches, but never with a local coach understudying. We have now decided that this is a very important move. Then whenever Tom Moody decides to move on, we have a person right among us with the correct experience to take over. Then I do not think we would have to look out for foreign coaches anymore. We see one or two who can fill this void and we want have a chat with them and see how they could fit in.

It will be up to the Interim Committee to look into the financial aspects of this post. We in the Cricket Committee is only worried about getting the right people into the right positions.

Q: Moving away from the local scene for a moment, now there is a hue and cry by many past cricketers in the world that teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe should be relegated. What are your views on this?
I feel that they should be given a little more time. Especially Bangladesh, as a Asian cricket playing nation we have a big responsibility. At the same time South Africa has a big responsibility in putting Zimbabwe cricket right. I feel that where Bangladesh is concerned we should send in more 'A' team sides and get them to play more cricket.

Thirty years ago when we came though we were not getting beaten in the same manner we also struggled. So much so that it took also a good thirteen years to register our first Test win overseas.


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