A couple of weeks before the scheduled player draft of the Lanka Premier League (LPL), Thilina Kandamby receives a call from his cricketing friend Mario Vellavarayan. Unlike their frequent usual chats, this call from Vellavarayan has a different objective — to offer Kandamby a role in the coaching staff of Jaffna Stallions — the franchise [...]


The Stable Master of Jaffna Stallions

Coincidentally Kandamby captained champions Uva Next at SLPL and coached Jaffna Stallions at LPL

Kandamby is looking forward for a successful coaching career

A couple of weeks before the scheduled player draft of the Lanka Premier League (LPL), Thilina Kandamby receives a call from his cricketing friend Mario Vellavarayan. Unlike their frequent usual chats, this call from Vellavarayan has a different objective — to offer Kandamby a role in the coaching staff of Jaffna Stallions — the franchise that would go on to clinch the championship of the inaugural LPL.

Kandamby was partly convinced, and another call from former national cricketer turned commentator Russell Arnold a few days later fully convinces him. His initial appointment was the role of batting coach, and as days passed by Kandamby was promoted as assistant coach so that he could take part in the player draft on October 19. After finalising the squad, the team management of Jaffna Stallions makes a sudden request.

“The management asked me if I was fine to be the head coach of the franchise all of a sudden. Initially I was to assist the head coach, and I simply grabbed the opportunity because the franchise had a perfect, friendly, professional and well organised structure overall,” Kandamby explained.

Becoming the stable master of the Stallions was something Kandamby would have hated to miss, given his previous experiences as an international player of 12 years. Yet as a coach, Kandamby has one vision, to ensure the fate of the next generation of cricketers would not be what he had as a player.

“Those experiences I went through as a player, probably has made me a coach with a mission. I still learn every day but it’s experience that makes you a full-grown man, even a good coach,” the Level III coach stated.

Having embarked on a coaching career since retiring as a player in 2016, Kandamby was to take a different path. But when he was offered the Head Coach position of Royal College, Kandamby knew that his journey with cricket is far from over. After two years at Royal, he joined his former premier club, the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) where he is still the Head Coach. But for the veteran of 39 One Day Internationals, five Twenty20 Internationals and 163 First Class matches with 8,758 runs, the role of Head Coach with Jaffna Stallions was a whole new experience.

“Coaching a school team is a different task and a premier club is another challenge. But coaching a franchise is all about man-management. You get a mix of players with experiences from different backgrounds but at the highest level and also youngsters who have potential of reaching the top end. It’s a tough challenge to pick the ideal players for the correct role,” he opined.

At school level, as Kandamby explains a coach has a more responsible role in order to guide the youngsters towards the correct path. There the coach plays a more involved role, to perfect the player in all aspects to become technically correct cricketers. At club level, Kandamby explains that it’s a mixture of grooming the player to the next level and managing the team according to the capabilities of the players. Either way his role at both levels was to see his side winning games while learning.

“I’ve enjoyed myself as a player for many years, but coaching is a totally different thing. It’s actually a challenge,” stated Kandamby, who coincidentally captained Uva Next, the champions of the one-off Sri Lanka Premier League played in 2012.

After eight years as Head Coach, he achieved a rare feat of guiding Jaffna Stallions to win the LPL title in its inaugural year. Kandamby solely credited the environment created by the franchise owners to all the success the Stallions enjoyed, while commending the leadership of Thisara Perera and the commitment of the Stallions players.

Initially Jaffna Stallions would go on to win their early games to top the table and become the first team to secure a slot in the semi-final. This was a goal set by Kandamby, who made sure all Stallions players in the squad would be given an opportunity to play in the tournament.

“We knew that we needed to win the early games to do that. And the players responded well. Their commitment was clear, all I had to do was give each player their role and make sure they implement that on the field. It all worked off well,” he stated.

Jaffna Stallions had many players who were brilliant individually, but the most outstanding was Wanindu Hasaranga, who was adjudged the Player of the Tournament. The side had Kandamby’s Uva Next team mate Shoaib Malik, Usman Shinwari, Dananjaya de Silva, Avishka Fernando and skipper Perera as chief contributors while others played their part when needed. Kandamby’s great content was giving young Vijayakanth Viyaskanth the much-needed break to showcase his talent.

“Compared to other teams, we had a decent combination in batting, bowling and fielding. We had a great squad to choose from and above all we were like a family. The players, coaching staff, support staff and owners were all like a family. Moreover, the franchise had a well-organised plan from the very beginning to the end and gave the coaching staff a free hand to work. That was the success behind Jaffna Stallions’ triumph,” revealed Kandamby.

After completing his task with Jaffna Stallions, Kandamby is now back at SSC preparing his players for the upcoming SLC Premier Championship competition. Kandamby was grateful to SSC for releasing him for a couple of months, to experience a new chapter in coaching. But he is as keen as a toddler to add more experience and accolades to his now four-year-old coaching career.

“My immediate goal is to guide SSC to a Premier Championship title. Learning new things in cricket coaching never ends. The curiosity to learn actually grows every day, making my new job more interesting than challenging. To see youngsters reach the top level through my guidance is the ultimate joy I could get as a coach. I really experienced and enjoyed that with the Jaffna Stallions,” stressed Kandamby, who would be willing to mentor Jaffna Stallions in its venture to develop cricket in the Northern region.

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