Sri Lanka Cricket’s prob­lems myr­iad, says for­mer man­ager Se­nanayake CRICKET

He tells Amith Pas­sela rea­sons be­hind opt­ing out mid­way from the Tests against Eng­land

The National - News - - SPORT -

To say Sri Lanka cricket is at the low­est point would be some­thing of an un­der­state­ment.

Clean swept by Eng­land 3-0 in the re­cent Test se­ries was just the third time Sri Lanka had suf­fered that ig­nominy on home soil. It fol­lowed a 3-1 loss in the five-match ODI se­ries as well as the lone Twenty20 In­ter­na­tional.

The Eng­land hu­mil­i­a­tion is just the lat­est in a se­ries of set­backs that has left cricket on the is­land na­tion in cri­sis.

Sri Lanka failed to reach the Su­per Four stage in the Asia Cup in the UAE fol­low­ing de­feats to Bangladesh and Afghanistan and last year they suf­fered a first Test de­feat to Bangladesh and were also em­bar­rassed by Zim­babwe in an ODI se­ries.

Sri Lanka’s plight is not just con­fined to pitch re­sults. Offfield is­sues have con­trib­uted to the malaise too.

In the last three years, the team has gone through five cap­tains and as many head coaches; there have been four bat­ting coaches, five se­lec­tion com­mit­tees and the board has changed three times.

The Sri Lanka Cricket board is sus­pended and cricket is tem­po­rar­ily run by the Min­istry of Sports un­til elec­tions are held in De­cem­ber. That too is now in doubt with the on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal drama in the coun­try.

When re­sults are this bad heads usu­ally roll. The first to fall on his sword was Charith Se­nanayake, who re­signed as team man­ager fol­low­ing the 211-run de­feat to Eng­land in the first Test in Galle ear­lier this month.

“Eng­land were com­ing off a [home] se­ries win against In­dia de­spite dif­fer­ent con­di­tions. They are a top team who de­serves all the credit,” Se­nanayake told The Na­tional.

“We could have done bet­ter per­haps, yes, had we cap­i­talised on cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, thought bet­ter, re­acted quickly on [our] feet and played fear­less cricket with con­fi­dence.”

An­other area of con­cern seems to be a drought of emerg­ing tal­ent to fill the huge voids left by Mut­tiah Mu­ralitha­ran, Ma­hela Jayawar­dene and Ku­mar San­gakkara, while vet­eran spin­ner Ran­gana Herath, 40, re­tired from in­ter­na­tional ca­reer af­ter the first Test.

Se­nanayake said a lack of plan­ning by the SLC, as well as un­wel­come out­side in­ter­fer­ence in its gov­er­nance, were all fac­tors in Sri Lanka’s predica­ment. “The crick­et­ing struc­tures must en­sure proper pro­gres­sion of play­ers from school to clubs and then to na­tional level,” said the for­mer Sri Lanka in­ter­na­tional.

He said the need was for a “proper man­age­ment in place with the right peo­ple manag­ing with­out out­side in­flu­ences.

“Of course when things go wrong, usu­ally heads roll. It’s a com­mon sce­nario in this part of the world, with­out iden­ti­fy­ing the core is­sues. Chang­ing pil­lows for a headache is not the so­lu­tion in my view.”

Se­nanayake’s res­ig­na­tion af­ter the first Test came as some­thing of a shock. Work­ing along­side coach Chandika Hathu­rus­inghe, who opened the bat­ting along­side Se­nanayake when the lat­ter made his Test de­but against New Zealand in 1991, seemed to of­fer, from the out­side at least, sta­bil­ity.

How­ever, af­ter learn­ing dur­ing the match that he would not be in the tour­ing party for Sri Lanka’s up­com­ing tours Se­nanayake said his po­si­tion be­came un­ten­able.

“Dur­ing the first Test in Galle, I got to know, through the me­dia, that I was taken out of the forth­com­ing tours to New Zealand, Aus­tralia, South Africa and the West In­dies,” he said.

“When asked for rea­sons from SLC, I was in­formed that due to lapses in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with sup­port staff my stay with the team was detri­men­tal.

“That’s the rea­son I de­cided to leave af­ter the first Test, hop­ing noth­ing but the best for the team.

“In my view, the team, in­sti­tu­tion and coun­try is big­ger than any in­di­vid­ual’s per­sonal glory or in­ter­est.

“What I thought about my re­la­tion­ship with Hathu, per­haps I was wrong. In hind­sight, maybe I should never have ac­cepted the of­fer ini­tially.”

Se­nanayake has not given up hopes of a re­turn un­der a dif­fer­ent man­age­ment, though.

His most re­cent stint was his fourth time work­ing for the SLC.

“Cricket is my pas­sion and I am not there for any other ben­e­fit, be­ing the low­est paid mem­ber of the staff,” he said.

“If called to serve un­der a dif­fer­ent man­age­ment, I def­i­nitely will. To be fair, SLC too have in­vested heav­ily in me, and it is my duty to give it back and share my ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Sri Lanka’s next tour is to New Zealand for two Tests which starts from De­cem­ber 15 fol­lowed by three ODIs and a one­off T20.

Malinda Push­paku­mara gets hit on the hel­met by Stu­art Broad

Charith Se­nanayake, cen­tre, has re­signed in his fourth stint with Sri Lanka Cricket. He has blamed tal­ent drain, out­side in­ter­fer­ence and lack of plan­ning as his rea­sons

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