The Hathurusingha factor | Daily News

The Hathurusingha factor

Last week the local cricket world was all abuzz that Chandika Hathurusingha had resigned as head coach of the Bangladesh cricket team well ahead of his contract which was till the 2019 World Cup. With Sri Lanka head hunting for a suitable head coach following the resignation of Graham Ford at the end of the Champions Trophy in June, Hathurusingha’s resignation sparked off a reaction that he would be roped in by Sri Lanka.

After all why not? Hathurusingha is a former Sri Lanka cricketer having represented his country in international cricket first as an opening batsman and then as a useful all-rounder from 1991-1999. After he quit first-class cricket in 2005 he focused on a career as coach that was to earn him a reputation far bigger than what he achieved as a cricketer. Initially he coached the UAE and was then the Sri Lanka A team coach during which period he showed his rare talent for identifying future cricketers.

At the end of Sri Lanka A’s tour to South Africa in 2008 Hathurusingha picked three potential players for the future - allrounder Angelo Mathews, fast bowler Suranga Lakmal and opener Tharanga Paranavitana.

“What is so unique about them is that they are intelligent, pick things up very quickly, and they are quite matured for their age. They seek information and absorb it very quickly. They should go a long way,” Hathurusingha said at that time.

True to his words all three of them made it to the Sri Lanka team and in fact two of them Mathews and Lakmal are still around while Paranavitana’s 32-Test career ended in 2012.

Hathurusingha’s ambition was to become one of Sri Lanka’s leading cricket coaches. He was already recognised as one of the most highly qualified coaches in the country at the time having attained ECB Level 3 coaching status, one of the most advanced coaching qualifications in the world, as well as a Level II qualification with Cricket Australia.

“Cricket coaching has always been a passion and it also provides me with an opportunity of putting something back into the game I love. This will be my second career in cricket and my ambition is to become one of the leading coaches in the world. I hope that sometime in the future I will be an asset to Sri Lanka once again,” Hathurusingha said.

In 2009 Hathurusingha was appointed shadow coach as understudy to head coach Trevor Bayliss and assistant coach Stuart Law with the intention of grooming him as a future head coach of Sri Lanka. However things didn’t work out the way it was planned. The following year Hathurusingha fell foul of the DS de Silva interim cricket administration who found him guilty of breaching discipline and expelled him.

During that period Hathurusingha played an integral part in the players’ development. Although he was asked by Bayliss to look after the batting, plan for the opposition and formulate game plans, he also played a big role in the players’ mental make-up which made them become successful cricketers at international level. A classic example was how Hathurusingha converted the obdurate Thilan Samaraweera into a stroke-maker so that he ended up being chosen to play in the 2011 World Cup.

Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, at the time personally wrote to SLC requesting a lenient punishment for Hathurusingha considering his value to the team especially ahead of the 2011 World Cup. However the De Silva administration was adamant on their decision which resulted in Hathurusingha leaving Sri Lanka in acrimonious circumstances and taking off to Australia with his family.

Going Down Under turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Hathurusingha as he settled down there and applied for permanent residency. He was appointed as the assistant coach of the New South Wales (NSW) side on a two-year contract but received an upgrade midway through the 2012-13 season when he took over as acting head coach following Anthony Stuart’s dismissal. He once again served as deputy to Trevor Bayliss who was then head coach of NSW for 2013-14 but there was something better on the horizon for Hathurusingha as he was named coach of the Sydney Thunder franchise for the 2013 Big Bash League.

Hahurusingha is credited as the architect behind Bangladesh’s cricket transformation having worked wonders with the team since his appointment in May 2014, inspiring the players to put in their best foot forward every time they stepped out in the middle. He transformed Bangladesh’s approach to the game at all levels. The players have shown more confidence in themselves and the results have shown on the pitch as well with numbers backing his work, making him the most successful coach in Bangladesh history particularly in ODI cricket.

Till Hathurusingha took over Bangladesh had a success rate of 29 percent in ODIs – winning 83 and losing 200 of their 283 matches played till April 2014. The figures after that show a success rate of 50 percent with 24 wins out of 51 matches. Whilst transforming Bangladesh cricket’s fortunes on the pitch, Hathurusingha has also been making changes behind the scenes as well, calling for and implementing a professional approach to the way the game in Bangladesh should be run. In addition to the head coach’s role, Hathurusingha is also a selector and he also has a big say in the appointment of his support staff.

Hathurusingha is known as someone who wants to have absolute freedom in his work and that has at times led to some behind the scenes altercation with the Bangladesh cricket hierarchy but the fact that they extended his contract till the 2019 World Cup proved how much they valued his services.

But now this bombshell of Hathurusingha resigning from Bangladesh well ahead of his contract has sparked off rumours that he is headed for Sri Lanka where he will be gladly accepted. The appointment of Thilan Samaraweera as the Sri Lanka team’s batting coach till the 2019 World Cup certainly points out to laying the red carpet for Hathurusingha’s return. It was Hathurusingha who got Samaraweera as consultant batting coach for Bangladesh.

Despite his past unpleasant experiences with SLC, Hathurusingha has time and again spoken of a desire to take over as Sri Lankan head coach. “I will absolutely come [if SLC asks me to]. I am in this position today because of all the things I learned playing cricket in Sri Lanka. After I learned everything in Sri Lanka for about 20 years, I went to Australia and learned things there as well. But if Sri Lanka invites me at any time, I will happily come back to do something for the country,” he said.

While most of the modern-day coaches walk into their posts on their pedigree as a player of international repute, Hathurusingha is someone who has worked hard on his coaching qualifications to make the way up and is, in fact, one of the most highly qualified coaches today.

Knowing Hathurusingha he is not going to come without laying down his own terms. SLC should be mindful of that before signing him on. He may expect the same freedom given to him by the Bangladesh Cricket Board and he wouldn’t stand for any interference from the SLC hierarchy. If the SLC has learnt its lessons from the recent past then the signing of Hathurusingha will be the shot in the arm the country’s ailing national team needs.


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