Enter Hathuru, yet SLC is playing with a crooked bat
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)