Much of what is said and done about cricket in Sri Lanka is debatable. For instance when one group of cricket visionaries is entrusted with the task of shaping the country’s cricketing future, they sit together and moot a plan and preach to the rest of the country that it’s gospel and that’s that. Yet, [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Cricket wine in a new wrapper


Much of what is said and done about cricket in Sri Lanka is debatable. For instance when one group of cricket visionaries is entrusted with the task of shaping the country’s cricketing future, they sit together and moot a plan and preach to the rest of the country that it’s gospel and that’s that. Yet, when the pros and the cons of that train of thought are being debated, the cricket administration falls out of favour and the plans that endowed the future of Sri Lanka’s domestic cricket legion just fades into oblivion.

We have faced this situation more than once during the past decade.

Yet, one must remember the game of cricket has become inherent to us. Even without thinking, the engine runs on year in year out, chugging its way while producing cricketers of international quality. I bet even without the much-fancied building at Maitland Place and the crowd gathered inside like white ants on a mound, cricket will go on the same keel.

Yet, there is no argument, the game of cricket in this country has moved beyond the levels of any other vocation that has taken Sri Lanka forward internationally. This is where sustenance, forward planning and development of infrastructure comes into the equation.
Fortunately the present cricket administration is initially given a two-year term and they do have a chance of going on for another two on performance. For the first time in the history of the game there is an administration that has the influence of a 360 degree viewpoint and a chance to work in cohesion to achieve a common objective.

Ranjit Fernando, elaborated on finer points and weakneses of Sri Lanka’s cricketing structure. - Pic by Amila Gamage

As a result when the administration named its Coaching and Cricket Committee we were interested in their line of thinking and what rabbits they were planning to pull out of the hat.

The multifaceted committee will run under the chairmanship of former national wicketkeeper and opening batsman Ranjit Fernando, who has now slipped into the shoes of an administrator. The rest of the committee comprises Sanath Jayasuriya – National Selector, Hashan Tillakaratne – National Selector, Chaminda Mendis – National Selector, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kapila Wijegunawardena, Dushan Soza, Gamini Wickramasinghe, Lalith Kaluperuma, Jayantha Amarasinghe – Women’s Selection Committee Representative, Duminda Wickramasinghe – Junior Selection Committee Representative, Roshan Iddamalgoda – Tournament Selection Committee Representative, Dilshan De Silva – Schools Selection Committee Representative, Ashley De Silva – Actg. CEO – Co Opted, Carlton Bernadus – Actg. HOCO- Co Opted, Jerome Jayaratne – Head Of Coaching.

The committee looks well formulated and looks a rounded octopus with well-developed tentacles

The exchange of views with Ranjit Fernando began at that point. Fernando explained that the cricket and coaching committee was formed according to a clause of the SLC constitution which stipulated the formation of a coaching committee. He said that under the interim committees cricket did not exactly run according to the said constitution, as a result they had the cricket committees to guide their policy from the top. Likewise the Coaching and Cricket Committee’s purviews will be the same. They too will act as a lead dog to Sri Lanka Cricket. Ranjit explained, “Constitutionally this is the coaching committee but this one goes a little beyond that. That is why we have opted to call this the cricket and coaching committee. Into this we have brought in the Chairman of the Selection Committee and the heads of other vital cogs such as the Tournament Committee along with people with stature to give this committee a lot more clout.”

Fernando also explained that this group would come up with the recommendations and implementation of those ideas will be the responsibility of the committees like the umpires committee and the tournament committee whilst this committee will look mainly into selection and coaching matters.

The former opening batsman confessed at this point that he took up this responsibility after putting a lot of thought behind it in spite of being rather hesitant at the very outset. He added, “I said that I will handle this maybe mostly for a year and if the need arises I would hand over the responsibility to someone else prior to that.”

“Yet the response I got after I took up the post was very encouraging. I am not going to be another person who will only limit his participation to meetings. There is a lot to accomplish and I intend being there in a hands on situation.”

Fernando then stressed upon a point. He said one of the main reasons for the game of cricket being so successful in Sri Lanka is that the majority of cricket that is played in the island is concentrated in and outside Colombo. Besides that, all the organisations and players converge into this area at all times. “Actually this small unit has made us so successful at this. As a result the players have a very high degree of camaraderie, they jell well with each other, they understand each other’s problems and there is very little infighting in Sri Lanka Cricket.”

Fernando stressed on that point further. He said there may be infighting in a very small scale here, but if one compares the infighting that goes in other countries, the Lankan scale is negligible. This is one thing he said that he finds a great strength to Sri Lanka cricket and we must nurture that.

Then he spoke on the weaknesses. He said, “If you ask me what the greatest weakness is, the greatest weakness is the lack of understanding of the game, the lack of organisation of the game, the lack coaching facilities in the outstations.” Elaborating Fernando pointed out that most of the outstation talent comes to Colombo at or after the Under 19 level. Only then do these cricketers begin to be nurtured by the system that prevails here. He said without proper and experienced coaching you find that some of the players that reach the big apple have to be undone before they are re-done again. “I think that is a drawback. I think if asked by anyone what has to be done for Sri Lanka cricket now, I would say it is to maintain this great strength that we have,” Fernando reiterated. He also added that we must uplift the coaching standards in the outstations so that when their talent reaches this end it will be a full product. However, he added that even in Colombo the coaching levels have to be uplifted. He said that coaching does not stop at teaching the techniques, but that players must also be taught intricate points like how to outwit a batsman and how to read a bowler. In short they must also be good at understanding and sizing up their opposition.

“One of my priorities would be to uplift the coaching standards outstation and overall. That I know is a huge task, but it is a salient point that has to be addressed.”“To achieve my goals I would be having workshops and seminars regularly especially for the outstation coaches — particularly the provincial coaches and then the district coaches who will carry the message to the schools in the area. Then I would also like see these provincial coaches coming into Colombo for two or may be three weeks a year with the main coaches. Maybe if finances permit, send one of these outstation coaches as a part of a foreign tour. Then they would understand how the machine really chugs. Finally I think it is the easiest and I am disappointed that it is already not in place – the usage of the internet. No one has really gone into the coaching material that is available in the internet. If any one Googles any great player in the world, from Muralitharan, Warne, Vivian Richards or Kumar Sangakkara and asks for a coaching tip or advice one could find some brilliant cuts from those players giving these tips on coaching. They have some wonderful coaching tips. For some we may have to bring them to seminars and explain. But, for the guys who can understand them, they are brilliant.”

In conclusion Ranjit Fernando said that the Provincial Cricket tournament that has been placed should go on as the first class tournament, but at the same time the, the club cricket tournament also should not lose its identity’. There can be two first class tournaments. Even now there are Test-playing nations that have two first class tournaments that are in operation.”

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