Thi­lan calls so­cial me­dia a ‘huge dis­trac­tion’

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT - By Champika Fer­nando

Sri Lanka's new bat­ting coach wants crick­eters to re­duce their pres­ence on so­cial me­dia and con­cen­trate on cricket. Call­ing so­cial me­dia a "huge dis­trac­tion" for mod­ern day crick­eters, Thi­lan Sa­ma­raweera said that "the loads of crap" you find across var­i­ous in­ter­net plat­forms have placed the play­ers un­der tremen­dous pres­sure.

“So­cial me­dia, it seems to me, is a huge a dis­trac­tion for mod­ern crick­eters,” the for­mer Sri Lankan mid­dle-or­der bats­man said, a day after he landed in the coun­try to ac­cept his first ma­jor con­tract as a bat­ting coach. He has secured a three-year deal which runs beyond the 2019 World Cup. “There’s a lot of pres­sure com­ing from so­cial me­dia these days," he said, "and only way to avoid them is by re­duc­ing your own pres­ence in these plat­forms."

Sa­ma­raweera re­tired from in­ter­na­tional cricket in March 2013 when se­lec­tors ex­cluded him from the home se­ries against Bangladesh. But five years later, he is back with the na­tional team as bat­ting coach and his first as­sign­ment is against In­dia. Now, the 41-year-old wants to in­fuse self-con­fi­dence among the play­ers to start win­ning.

“Win­ning is a habit, just as los­ing is," Sa­ma­raweera told the Sun­day Times. "And I think they have for­got­ten how to make win­ning a habit. These crick­eters are ex­tremely ta­lented as play­ers in any other team in the world but they need to keep their brains fit while work­ing on their phys­i­cal strength."

Although Sri Lanka has un­der­gone a rough patch in re­cent months across all for­mats, they recorded a sur­prise vic­tory against Pak­istan in UAE in a Test se­ries. Most teams strug­gle to beat Pak­istan in UAE, their adopted home.

“Beat­ing Pak­istan in UAE was in­deed a huge achieve­ment and that shows what they are ca­pa­ble of," Sa­ma­raweera pointed out. "It was a se­ries many thought we would lose but look how Sri Lanka turned it around. If we can do it against Pak­istan, we can cer­tainly do it against In­dia. The only thing is, we need to be fo­cused."

Sri Lanka beat Pak­istan 2-0 in the Test se­ries but got white­washed in the lim­ited- over se­ries which in­cluded five ODIs and three T20 internationals.

Sa­ma­raweera started out as an off- spin­ner but ended it as third in the list of Sri Lankan crick­eters with best av­er­ages in Test cricket-- a rare feat by a player whose ca­reer was nearly halted when a bul­let pierced through his knee dur­ing the 2009 ter­ror­ist at­tack on the Lankan crick­eters in La­hore. His av­er­age of 48.75 is o n l y sec­ond t o Ku­mar San­gakkara ( 57) and Ma­hela Jayawar­dene (49), point­ing to the dedication and hard work he had put in.

“We have seen play­ers glo­ri­fied and com­pared to the greats of the game after few good per­for­mances," he said. "In the same way, they are named and shamed after a few bad per­for­mances. I think these dis­trac­tions have placed crick­eters un­der so much pres­sure. I per­son­ally be­lieve they should leave so­cial me­dia or at least re­duce their pres­ence as much as pos­si­ble."

Sa­ma­raweera also un­der­lined the im­por­tance of strong work ethic to ex­cel con­tin­u­ously for a longer pe­riod of time

Most crick­eters have great start to their ca­reers but of­ten strug­gle as time elapses. A good ex­am­ple is Kusal Mendis, who was re­garded as the next big name in Sri Lanka cricket after his mes­mer­iz­ing per­for­mance against Aus­tralia that led Sri Lanka to a record 3-0 white­wash. Today, he is not in con­tention for a place in the na­tional Test side.

“I think the first 15 in­ter­na­tional matches are of­ten the eas­i­est for a player to per­form but it changes when the op­po­si­tion teams start to an­a­lyze your game," Sa­ma­raweera said. "This is where the real test is and I have seen lot of play­ers who have a great start who strug­gle later on in their ca­reers. This is why I said the play­ers need to have their fo­cus on the game."

Sa­ma­raweera, who now domi­ciled in Aus­tralia, is not look­ing to make dras­tic changes. He will con­sider the tech­ni­cal, tac­ti­cal and men­tal as­pects of the bats­men in the en­su­ing years.

“This is a huge chal­lenge for me per­son­ally but I ac­cepted this with great en­thu­si­asm,” he said. “I don’t think I can do much dur­ing the cur­rent se­ries in In­dia ex­cept giv­ing them con­fi­dence but this will cer­tainly help me to un­der­stand and gel with play­ers; as­sess dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and their re­quire­ments. Once I get a fair as­sess­ment on each and ev­ery in­di­vid­ual player, I will start work­ing with them in help­ing them to lift their game."

Since re­tire­ment, Sa­ma­raweera stayed con­nected to cricket by men­tor­ing. Be­fore tak­ing up a full-time role with Sri Lanka Cricket, he has worked as a bat­ting con­sul­tant for the Bangladesh cricket team and the Aus­tralian team.

Sa­ma­raweera started out as an off-spin­ner but ended it as third in the list of Sri Lankan crick­eters with best av­er­ages in Test cricket--a rare feat by a player whose ca­reer was nearly halted when a bul­let pierced through his knee dur­ing the 2009 ter­ror­ist at­tack on the Lankan crick­eters in La­hore.

Thi­lan Sa­ma­raweera is a non-be­liever in So­cial Me­dia, which he has neg­a­tive thoughts on it - File pic

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