The beginning of a new era? | Daily News


The beginning of a new era?

Sri Lanka will hope to begin a new era in their cricket history when they open the New Year 2018 with a match against Zimbabwe in the one-day tri-nation series in Dhaka, Bangladesh today. A new coach Chandika Hathurusingha and the reinstalling of Angelo Mathews as the captain of the one-day game in both formats One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals has renewed hopes of a better tomorrow for the Sri Lankan cricket team and its players who have had a rough ride in 2017 – a year they would want to forget in a hurry.

Every team goes through a lean period and Sri Lanka should put back 2017 as a bad dream and look to the future, think positive and relive the precious little moments they had in the past year like beating India in the Champions trophy, the 3-0 whitewash of Australia in the Tests, the 2-0 Test win over Pakistan in the UAE - subjecting the opponents to their first series loss in that country which they have made their temporary home venue and, the shock defeat of India in the first ODI at Dharamsala.

A lot would depend on how Sri Lanka commences their campaign in the Bangladesh tri-series. If they can emerge champions it would be a great shot in the arm for the new coach as well as the team to attain greater heights. It’s not that Sri Lanka are starved of talent but they were like a ship without a rudder when Graham Ford left them in May soon after the Champions trophy. They were tossed up and down on rough seas without any sense of direction until Sri Lanka Cricket eventually found a captain to steer the team into calmer waters by signing up Hathurusingha.

Hathu Aiyya as players prefer to call him can bring about a calming influence on the team with his no-nonsense approach. Mathews admitted the other day soon after being re-appointed captain that what made him undertake the Sri Lanka captaincy again was the influence of Hathurusingha.

“When I stepped down, I thought that I will never take it up again. The SLC president, head coach and the selectors wanted me to reconsider my decision. I thought about it and there are few reasons for me to take it again,” said Mathews. “We need to have stability leading up to the 2019 World Cup which is less than 18 months away. This is an hour of need and if I don't take it up now, I will feel bad in a few months time,"

Mathews graduated to international cricket in 2009 after some impressive performances with the Sri Lanka 'A' team where Hathurusingha was the coach.

"I have known Hathu Aiyya for a long time. I know how he operates. He is not here to survive. It is very easy to work with him as he has his goals. He played a major part in me making this decision to take up the captaincy again. We have worked a lot together. He was the coach when I was playing in the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team and shadow coach when I entered international cricket," Mathews said.

Hathurusingha’s arrival at a time when the team was looking for someone to guide them is almost as similar to when Dav Whatmore took over the Sri Lanka side in 1995. At the time the team was overflowing with talent but lacked the direction. Whatmore provided that and turned an ordinary side into a team of world beaters by winning the World Cup a year later.

Hathurusingha does not have that kind of talent at his disposal but a group of young and talented cricketers who are prepared to learn from him and are hungry for success that has been denied them in the past year.

The success of any team is the consistency with which you keep winning and that is what this present Sri Lanka side lacks and needs to achieve. By bringing back Mathews as captain for the one-day side and leaving Dinesh Chandimal to handle the Test team the selectors have made the right decision as there is no one as good as these two cricketers to lead the team from the front. Chandimal has already done so on a few occasions during his tenure as captain - prepared to show the rest of his team members that the captain means business. Mathews is a past master of it having led his country to some memorable victories during his first stint as captain - the stand out ones being Sri Lanka’s maiden Test series triumph in England in 2014 and the 3-0 whitewash of Australia when they were ranked the number one Test side in the world in 2016.

As for Hathurusingha the entire nation is looking upto him to deliver. He can do that only if he is allowed to take decisions that he thinks is best for the team without any outside influence or interference. On the surface it looks as if Sri Lanka Cricket has learnt from its past mistakes if the statement made by its president Thilanga Sumathipala at a recent press conference is to be treated as one of integrity.

"Mr. Hathurusingha had lengthy discussions with us, and we found that if we are to demand a high quality of performance, we have to give him 100% backing. Our thinking is to give the coach that muscle. If you expect one of the top coaches to come and help us out, we must give him the backing," the SLC president said.

It seems SLC has reached a crossroad where the success of the coach and the team is imperative for their own survival and for another term in office.




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