En­ter Hathuru, yet SLC is play­ing with a crooked bat

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL -

The de­ba­cle in Nag­pur is more than a loss. I would like to de­scribe it as ‘ poloss’— very im­ma­ture. It was not ‘ her­ali’ the young and cer­tainly not ‘kos’, which is the ma­ture. It was just ' poloss' the ten­der ver­sion of the Jak fruit.

But, whom are we fool­ing? As a mun­dane man I could only say that Sri Lanka Cricket at present is in the process of help­ing a na­tional cause. When there are fewer peo­ple to watch cricket on tele­vi­sion in this cricket crazy is­land, there is less stress on the na­tional power grid; thus in a round­about way it is a huge sav­ing for the na­tional econ­omy. If this is the ul­te­rior mo­tive of SLC Chief Thi­langa Su­math­ipala who is also the Deputy Speaker of the Lankan par­lia­ment, it is a no­ble ac­com­plish­ment.

How­ever, the af­flic­tion of hid­ing be­hind burn­ing issues is a na­tional past time in this coun­try, and it has been handed over to the sports arena from the very leg­is­la­tors who are sup­posed to gov­ern us. They are suc­cess­ful at sell­ing mi­rages with the ul­te­rior mo­tive of di­vert­ing at­ten­tion from the core is­sue.

The lat­est Lankan hype is bar­ter­ing the Chandika Hathu­rus­inghe im­age. Now the Lankan cricket topic is not how the Lankans lost the last match, but whether the be­lea­guered in­cum­bent Bangladesh coach get the of­fi­cial nod to cross over to Sri Lanka.

Ac­cord­ing se­nior cricket an­a­lysts, both Su­math­ipala and Hathu­rus­inghe are row­ing the tide in the same di­rec­tion. As for Hathu­rus­inghe in Bangladesh; he has ac­com­plished his mis­sion and right now he is on the top of the moun­tain – I mean the peak. From there its only down­hill – as far as Bangladesh cricket is con­cerned.

When Hathu­rus­inghe took over the task of coach­ing Bangladesh f rom Au s t r a l i a n Shane Jur­gensen, it was a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity open­ing. The nat­u­ralised New South Welsh­man, Hathu­rus­inghe who moved from Sri Lanka took the op­por­tu­nity with both arms.

First let us go back in time with the Hathu­rus­inghe saga. In the early 1980s it was largely the doyen of Tamil Union cricket and the present Sri Lanka High Com­mis­sioner to Aus­tralia S. Skan­daku­mar who spot­ted the tal­ent of this young crick­eter turn­ing out for Veluwana Col­lege and urged the Ananda au­thor­i­ties to make the switch.

Though his as­cent did not come on a car­peted high­way, the all­rounder made the max­i­mum of every op­por­tu­nity that came his way. Then on Fe­bru­ary 22, 1991, Hathu­rus­inghe wore his first na­tional crested blue cap as an open­ing bats­man. Well… he was not a Brian Lara; but he was a use­ful crick­eter who could do his part at the top of the or­der and then pick a wicket or two with his medium pace de­liv­er­ies. Though he was not a part of the 1996 World Cup win­ning en­sem­ble, Hathu­rus­inghe was a part of Lankan In­ter­na­tional cricket till 1999.

With his all­round cricket abil­i­ties, Hathu­rus­inghe de­vel­oped a good in­sight of the game and after a short stint with the United Arab Emi­rates as their coach, he was ab­sorbed into the Lankan sys­tem as A team coach. Sri Lanka recog­nised his worth and soon he was sin­gled out by the then In­terim Com­mit­tee Chair­man D. S. de Silva and was ab­sorbed into the na­tional coach­ing hi­er­ar­chy.

At that junc­ture, the Lankan coach was Trevor Bayliss with English­man Paul Far­brace act­ing as his deputy. At the same time Lankans also thought of hav­ing a Lankan lin­eage in coach­ing and Hathu­rus­inghe was named as ‘shadow coach’.

I still won­der whether it was di­rect or in­di­rect. There were two other de­vel­op­ments brew­ing within, ac­cord­ing to an in­sider who played an ac­tive role in Lankan cricket. He said, “First, some of the se­niors in the Lankan Na­tional team were not sat­is­fied with the role of Bayliss and wanted Far­brace to step up. Then at the other end Far­brace was said to be un­happy with the ap­point­ment of Hathu­rus­inghe.

“Sri Lanka Cricket tak­ing the team direc­tive gave Bayliss the quit no­tice. At that time Bayliss’ fam­ily was about to make a hol­i­day in Sri Lanka. Nev­er­the­less, Bayliss agreed to move on.

“At the other end Far­brace who did not like the Hathu­rus­inghe in­volve­ment re­signed and moved to take up a county as­sign­ment. This meant there was go­ing to be chaos. The Lankans were to be left only with a 'shadow coach'.

“The Lankans had to re­tract and talk to Bayliss once again and he was good enough to stay-on and that tale ended."

The Lankans were tour­ing Zim­babwe in 2010 when Hathu­rus­inghe fell out of favour. Dur­ing the tour, Hathu­rus­inghe was look­ing to fur­ther his coach­ing cre­den­tials, Down Un­der. But, ac­cord­ing to the SLC in­sider, the Lankan hi­er­ar­chy es­pe­cially In­terim Com­mit­tee Chair­man D.S. de Silva wanted him to stay on the with the Lankan team, promis­ing him an­other op­por­tu­nity.

But, against the wishes of the Lankan higher o r d e r, Hathu­rus­inghe de­cided to at­tend the coach­ing course in Aus­tralia and an an­gry D.S. de Silva wanted him out.

How­ever, the Mus­ings had the op­por­tu­nity of talk­ing to Hathu­rus­inghe at that junc­ture. The ex­pla­na­tion came in this man­ner. “We in­formed the SLC In­terim Com­mit­tee Sec­re­tary Nis­han­tha Ranatunga about this move while we were there. There I spoke to Nis­han­tha Ranatunga, Man­ager Anura Tennekoon and Coach Trevor Bayliss and Ranatunga said that he had no prob­lem with an ear­lier de­par­ture of mine from Zim­babwe if the main coach had no ob­jec­tion. Then when the Zim­babwe doc­u­men­ta­tion was be­ing ad­justed I even told man­ager Tennekoon about the ar­range­ment and it was done as dis­cussed.”

Hathu­rus­inghe ex­plained that sub­se­quently he re­turned to the is­land in an­tic­i­pa­tion of leav­ing for the Aus­tralian train­ing pro­gramme on June 8, 2010. “When I landed here I was is­sued with a no­tice al­leg­ing that I had aban­doned the tour. There was an in­quiry con­ducted by a re­tired judge. If I had aban­doned the tour there should have been a com­plaint from the man­ager, but, there was none. He gave ev­i­dence at the in­quiry. Even Bayliss said that there was no prob­lem. But up to date, I do not know what the af­ter­math was, but I got a let­ter ter­mi­nat­ing my ser­vices.”

The rest is recorded his­tory in the Hathu­rus­inghe saga. How­ever, in 2014, when he moved to Bangladesh there was no five star menu on the ta­ble. But, what was go­ing for Hathu­rus­inghe were a set of se­nior play­ers who were get­ting nowhere.

Along with play­ers of the cal­i­bre of Mustafizul Rah­man, Shakib Al Hasan, Thamim Iqbal and Mo­homadulla, he man­aged to turn things around and made a mark at the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Aus­tralia. Whilst play­ing mostly on home con­di­tions Bangladesh cricket thrived and be­came an op­po­nent whom the op­po­si­tion be­gan to re­spect. So much so that Shakib Al Hasan rose to the level of be­ing the ICC best all­rounder. For the first time Bangladesh crick­eters be­gan to en­joy su­per­star sta­tus, while Hathu­rus­inghe be­came one of the high­est paid coaches in the arena.

Now it’s the turn of the Bangladesh crick­eters to go and play on for­eign wick­ets – we don’t mean the sub-con­ti­nent. The New Zealand tour ended up not even on par. Dur­ing the South African tour the Bangladeshi in­ad­e­qua­cies were es­tab­lished. At the same time there were play­ers who were not in Hathu­rus­inghe’s list, be­gan to ap­pear in the play­ing Xl.

In all prob­a­bil­ity he must have de­cided that it was high time to fly to south­ern skies.

Here at this end, be­sides an in­fre­quent se­ries win like the Aus­tralian or Pak­istani, there was a gen­eral cav­ing in, in Lankan In­ter­na­tional cricket since 2015. This was akin to an in­cur­able sick­ness. First the ex­cuse was team build­ing after the ex­o­dus of sev­eral se­nior play­ers. But, now that ex­cuse is of no value.

After every cricket out­ing, Su­math­ipala’s wis­dom is be­ing ques­tioned. At the same time his trusted back­ers keep pulling out. First it was Aravinda de Silva who ran him­self out. Then vice pres­i­dent Jayan­tha Dhar­madasa let him­self get stumped. Then Su­math­ipala’s trusted ally Sanath Jaya­suriya ended up in the blues. More closer to home, even Su­math­ipala's most trusted ally and sec­re­tary Sri Lanka Cricket Mo­han de Silva is obliv­i­ous of some of the de­ci­sion that have been put into ac­tion, whereas gen­er­ally all im­por­tant de­ci­sions taken by an or­gan­i­sa­tion is min­uted by the Gen­eral Sec­re­tary.

On the other hand, an­other gun mis­fired in the Su­math­ipala a r moury when Asanka Gu­rus­inha took the cen­tre stage at the ex­pense of Coach Graeme Ford, a huge faux pass of which the Lankans have not seen the end.

Then un­der huge pres­sure, t h e re we re ru­mours of Su­math­ipala ab­di­cat­ing, but, Sports Min­is­ter Dayasiri Jayasek­era bailed him out with a high cal­i­bre tango at the Sports Min­istry, lead­ing to Aravinda de Silva, Ku­mar San­gakkara, Ma­hela Jayawar­dena and a few oth­ers hav­ing a round ta­ble dis­cus­sion on how to pull the bat out of the rut.

On Thurs­day the re­port was handed over to the Sports Min­is­ter, but, the ques­tion is how and when the rec­om­men­da­tions will be­come op­er­a­tive.

Now there is more pres­sure with the an­tic­i­pa­tion of the find­i­ings of the ICC anti- cor­rup­tion probe. Then we also hear of the closed door meet­ings of the Ranatunga- Dhar­madasa gang map­ping out their plan of ac­tion.

It is in this back­drop that Hathu­rus­inghe is flaunted to be the next mes­siah. As for Su­math­ipala, this is an­other hype to seek shel­ter and di­vert at­ten­tion. As for Hathu­rus­inghe, it is a timely move.

Then for the mun­dane us….we do not know what to ex­pect. ‘Hathuru’ started the ini­tial run with the Lankan coach­ing work­ing the line run­ning on the blind side. Then he came up sell­ing a ‘ dummy’ in Bangladesh leav­ing the whole cricket of­fice stand­ing speech­less. Now what’s the next move … who will score the next try?

The need of the hour is to get some­one who could con­struct a proper Test match and ODI in­nings for the Lankans. May be Hathu­rus­inghe has the cre­den­tials, but if he also fails………..?

I can do bet­ter than what you did... Hathuru seems to say to Graham Ford. (Pic Amila Ga­m­age File)

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