After a hiatus of two years, the Sri Lanka ‘A’ cricket team is set to return to action when they play host to the Pakistan ‘A’ side. As well as being the return of play for the second string national side, the occasion will be the baptism of former Sri Lanka fast bowler Rumesh Ratnayake [...]


Player development is key to success — Sri Lanka ‘A’ head coach Rumesh Ratnayake


Ratnayake was part of the national coaching set-up for some time

After a hiatus of two years, the Sri Lanka ‘A’ cricket team is set to return to action when they play host to the Pakistan ‘A’ side. As well as being the return of play for the second string national side, the occasion will be the baptism of former Sri Lanka fast bowler Rumesh Ratnayake as head coach.

Currently the team is undergoing intense practice sessions to make sure that they have covered all important areas that need to be fixed before they host Pakistan ‘A’ for two four-day matches and three One Day Internationals later this month.

Head coach Ratnayake, who has been working as a bowling coach at the High Performance Centre at Khettarama, said that his team has been preparing tirelessly for the home series against Pakistan ‘A’, scheduled to commence on October 28.

However their preparations have been hampered by inclement weather in Kandy. In spite of that Ratnayake is confident that the team will be able to pull off with positive results in terms of talent and skill.

“Yes, our preparations have been hampered, but we have been training with the available facilities. We were provided with fantastic indoor facilities, not the ideal preparations, but I am confident that the series will showcase the capabilities of the next generation of cricketers in the country. The players are certainly looking forward for the series,” he told the Sunday Times.

In the 22-member squad that was announced for the series, the selectors have opted for a balanced combination of youth and experience. According to the former fast bowler, the selectors had shown keen interest to players who performed well in the domestic cricket arena and they have also given the opportunity for the youngsters who has the potential to perform at this level. The age and physical fitness standards were key aspects that were given priority when finalising the squad.

In fact there are five players who has already represented the national team but the coach stressed about the fact that just because those players have the exposure at international level, there is no guarantee that they will perform well. They have to focus on improving their levels of consistency and the commitment and will have to compete for a place in the team just as the others in the squad.

With the entire world coming to a standstill due to COVID-19, cricket tours had to be postponed indefinitely. As a result, the careers of youngsters were pushed back. Coach Ratnayake felt that players need to understand that it as a situation the whole world had experienced.

“Now with the new concept of bio secure bubbles, it is important to make them feel that they are not alone. When it comes to the preparation of an important series it is essential to focus on the mental wellbeing of the players,” he added.

Ratnayake, who has a wealth of experience as a coach, believes that players will have to get the maximum out of the practice sessions ahead of the series so that they can perform to the best of their ability.

“It will help them create a peaceful environment within the team.”

He highlighted the fact that each individual must concentrate on doing the basics rather than thinking about the final outcome of the game. They have also implemented solutions for the prolonged weaknesses against spinners. He also said that the batting coach is aware of the areas that need improvement.

“The batting coach may advise them to use the sweep shot more frequently. Use the feet against spinners and play according to their strength. It is important to spend time at the crease. Those are the basic necessities for a batsman. Our aim is to do the basics consistently. Players should have the attributes to play against spin or pace. Batsmen should be mindful to do it for a long time. There is no point doing it for 10 minutes or one hour, and then give the wicket away. These are the areas we want to build on,” he explained.

The team will be under the guidance of head coach Ratnayake and will be assisted by Sajeewa Weerakoon as spin bowling coach, Ruwin Peiris as batting coach and Dharshana Gamage as fast bowling coach.

The Pakistan ‘A’ squad is made up of several players with international exposure. Among them are appointed skipper Sadeera Samarawickrama, Oshada Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Vishwa Fernando and Lasith Embuldeniya, who have appeared in almost all of the three formats. However Ratnayake urges his players to concentrate on their own strengths without focusing on the strengths of the opposition.

Another aspect that the coaches are concerned is the ability of players to adjust according to the conditions and they want the bowlers to take wickets on less conducive pitches as they prepare for tougher challenges when they get in to the national side. At this level the coaches concentrate on the development of the player. The coaches want them to have long and successful careers at international level.

The team management will have a close eye on the action as they want to give opportunities to all 22 players in the squad. The coach is keen to see how the players adjust to their game plan according to the two formats.

It is a proven fact that any national cricket team should have a strong bench strength to be successful in the international arena. The ‘A’ team head coach desires to have more tours to develop a strong bench strength and make sure that players learn from their mistakes before they are ready to represent their country at the highest level.

The series commences with two four-day matches at Pallekelle and it will be followed by three unofficial ODIs at Dambulla.

Sri Lanka ‘A’ squad: Sadeera Samarawickrema (Captain), Lahiru Udara, Nishan Madushka, Kamil Mishara, Oshada Fernando, Lasith Croospulle, Nuwanidu Fernando, Nipun Dhananjaya de Silva, Sahan Arachchige, Sammu Ashan, Lasith Abeyratne, Dhananjaya Lakshan, Mohammed Shiraz, Kalana Perera, Shiran Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Himesh Ramanayake, Vishwa Fernando, Lasith Embuldeniya, Suminda Lakshan, Ashain Daniel, Duvindu Tillakaratne

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