Only a few people get an opportunity to prove their capability on par with their qualifications, especially at a time when they are not really looking out for it.  Though one of the most qualified cricket coaches in the country, Jerome Jayaratne was quite satisfied with his position as ‘Head of Coaching – Sri Lanka [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Enter Jerome: The travails of an interim coach


Only a few people get an opportunity to prove their capability on par with their qualifications, especially at a time when they are not really looking out for it.  Though one of the most qualified cricket coaches in the country, Jerome Jayaratne was quite satisfied with his position as ‘Head of Coaching – Sri Lanka Cricket’. But, the sudden resignation of Sri Lanka’s National Coach Marvan Atapattu has prompted the authorities to seek the assistance of this former Thomian cricketer to guide the national team as interim coach.

Jerome expresses his views

In reality, there is no interim in this position. The task before the man in charge is to take the team to its International Cricket Commitment against the West Indies and no one would expect or accept interim results at the end of the series. As for Jayaratne, he would only have to shift his mental preparedness to this given job. Prior to being appointed as the interim coach, his day-to-day work entailed working with a cross section of the recognised cricketing entities of this country while ensuring that each sector gets its right exposure.

Yet, the new challenge is served on a different platter. The young team is going through a learning curve and trying to handle true exposure to international cricket without the help of any icons to shelter them when the going gets rough. The Indian tour of Sri Lanka is ample testimony to that statement.

If one takes an honest look at the pros and cons of the Indian tour, it did more good than harm to the future of Lankan cricket. Experience wise, both teams were almost on an even keel, but, skill wise the Indian team had more variety and depth, be it batting or bowling.

Both teams made a hash of their opening combinations. Sri Lanka’s opening duo of Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne initially failed to counter the spinners using the new ball in Galle and at the P. Sara Oval. Both instances came in the second inning of the match. However, due to a bad move by the selectors in the third Test – bringing in Upul Tharanga in place of Karunaratne in Sri Lanka’s first official Sangakkara-less International engagement — the Lankans just capitulated in that game. Tharanga failed in both innings and that was one of the main reasons for the defeat.Lankans after their freak win in Galle gave up the series 2-1 to the Indians.

A few weeks prior to the Indian tour ending, there were whispers about the Lankan hierarchy not being satisfied with the performance of national coach Atapattu. Soon they started attaching names to those secretive murmurs, with names like South African Graham Ford and our own Chandika Haturusinghe – who is now coaching the high-riding Bangladesh national team — being bandied about.

Once Atapattu sent in his resignation, it was only a matter of time before Haturusinghe would fly across the Bay of Bengal and take over the job at hand. That was the situation. It was also reported, that Haturusinghe was in Sri Lanka during the period in question, but, there is no confirmation about him meeting the Lankan cricket management officially.

Though there was no confirmation by Friday before last, it was expected that Haturusinghe would take over the position even before the West Indian tour. The only snag was working out the nitty-gritties together.  Then came the negative. The price asked by the prospective candidate was a little too stiff.

Besides, the election results and the formation of the national government brought in the new minister of Sport, Dayasiri Jayasekera. Jayasekera in his maiden address made no bones about his intention to do away with the government-controlled Interim Committee system and to bring in the elected stakeholders system.

In earnest, the minister’s intentions may be good. Even the very global administration of the game — the International Cricket Council – has made it clear that it does not tolerate government intervention in the administration of the game in any form. But, even the elected body system has had its own drawbacks.

Since 1996, we have seen how the cricket administration in Sri Lanka had degenerated as a result of the voting system.
Once Sri Lanka won the Cricket World Cup and the coffers at Maitland Place began to bloat, the number of enthusiasts who wanted a piece of the cake also began to swell. While the stakeholders hovered around, waiting for the right piece of meat to come their way, three families — the Ranatungas, the Dharmadasas and the Sumathipalas (incidentally, it is the present deputy speaker Thilanga Sumathipala who had got thrown out from his interim committee post most of the time) — made the upper echelons of the cricket administration their playground.

Since1996, it has been only Sumathipala and one Dharmadasa brother – the younger sibling Upali — who sat on cricket’s hot seat after being elected. The only other outsider who ruled cricket for at least one term was Mohan de Silva – who stepped in to help his friend Thilanga when the latter had a brush with the law.

Since early 2000, the Ranatungas have been associated with the ups and the downs of the cricket administration with World Cup winning captain Arjuna being brought in as chairman of one of the Interim Committees for just eight months in 2008.
Soon after Arjuna, younger sibling Nishantha was named as the secretary of one of the Interim Committees and grew to become the most influential cricket administrator as secretary under air dropped Upali Dharmadasa and Jayantha Dharmadasa presidencies.

But, Nishantha had bigger ideas. He made a bid to become President of the SLC — voted in. Yet, his nemesis Jayantha took up cudgels upon that bid. Just as he was about to contest as the President of the cricket board early this year, the then Sports Minister Navin Dissanayake formed the Interim Committee headed by Sidath Wettimuny.

Now the days of this Interim Committee also are seemingly numbered. Yet, with it there is a certain amount of uncertainty that has crept in. One of the top insiders of Sri Lanka Cricket confided: “If I am Chandika Haturusinghe I definitely would not make that move especially with this new development.

“If there are elections going to be held and if a faction which does not like the face of Haturusinghe comes into power, the poor guy would stand to lose a good thing going. “In Bangladesh there have been many coaches during the past decade or so and they came from all over the globe. Yet, none has been as successful as Haturusinghe and at present that man is needed there and it is very unlikely that the Bangladesh authorities would agree to release him in a hurry. Very soon they are billed to play Australia on their home soil and that engagement will be crucial to them.

“At the same time the Bangladesh Cricket Board also has a lot of money and definitely they are richer than Sri Lanka. I do not think the Lankans would be able to match what the BCB pays Haturusinghe now.”  At present, most of the cricketers and support staff are on overseas vacation and the official practice session is scheduled to begin on September 21. Yet, some are at the nets at Premadasa Stadium, keeping themselves in good shape.

The unpalatable truth is – not only the playing XI at the middle, but, cricket administration is also in the transition period. Right now no one knows what is going to happen next. So would a coach worth his common sense would dwell upon a responsible task of this nature?

True, there have been coaches who have built up their credentials by coaching Sri Lanka and are now high flying demi-gods in other countries. At the same time there have been coaches whose tenure being doctored and shortened by unscrupulous players and officials.

Now my question is – Sri Lanka has lost two back-to-back series to not so high flying teams. If Sri Lanka does win the West Indies series, not a freak one like the Indian win in Galle, but, a properly planned and well executed one, where would the Interim coach stand?

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