The Hathurusingha conundrum | Daily News


The Hathurusingha conundrum

Trying to make a change of the head coach with the cricket World Cup barely two months away is certainly not the right environment to be creating for any team, but circumstances are such that Sri Lanka are faced with the conundrum of having to take that step with Chandika Hathurusingha.

It is not that Hathurusingha was not in the firing line ever since he took over but the last eight months has seen him come under fire as no other previous head coaches have largely due to his attitude with players, officials and the media.

There have been all kinds of stories circulating about the Lankan team and its coach with every defeat they suffer.

Stories like the coach having problems with attitude and man management skills and about disunity within the team with many fractions and the coach having his favourite set of players, so on and so forth.

As one high ranking official said certainly there is no smoke without fire.

That factor could be true because as soon as Sports Minister Harin Fernando had removed Hathurusingha from the role of selector, we saw several changes being made to the ODI team in the series against South Africa for example the under-firing wicket-keeper being changed for the last two ODIs.

The absence of a proper cricket administration in place for the past eight months placed Hathurusingha in an enviable position to call the shots and run the national team to his whims and fancy. No one would have pointed a finger at him or found fault had the team performed and won, but for his bad luck with the exception of two Test series wins at home and away against South Africa, he has not been able to uplift the fortunes of the side, but only seen them go further into the abyss.

In those eight months Sri Lanka underwent one of their worst performances in international cricket, losing 16 out of 20 ODIs (3 wins) that included humiliating defeats at the hands of Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the Asia Cup and a 5-0 rout by South Africa; and six losses out of 11 Tests (4 wins) – the only highlight being beating South Africa by 2-0 margins both at home and away.

Having come with a reputation of a messiah who could change the fortunes of a cricket team like he had done with Bangladesh and being paid a handsome salary that raised many an eyebrow in public Hathurusingha’s reputation as one of the best cricket coaches in the business has certainly taken a tumble that he now finds himself no longer the man most sought after.

No sooner the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) elections were held the elected body immediately got down to business by recalling Hathurusingha from the ongoing tour to South Africa and replacing him with fielding coach Steve Rixon. That move alone would have been quite damaging to Hathurusingha’s reputation as an international coach and announced to the world that everything is not hunky-dory with his presence in the national side.

The SLC hierarchy wants to have serious discussions with him and what his future plans are going to be.

The newly elected office-bearers are keen to have a one on one chat with Hathurusingha and find out what strategies and plans he has for the World Cup and more importantly whether he can fall in line with the national selectors and the SLC’s line of thinking.

The only way Hathurusingha can retain his position as head coach is if he agrees to co-operate with rest of the team support staff and the team captain.

It is a well-known fact that Angelo Mathews the former captain and Hathurusingha don’t see eye to eye.

The situation was created by no less a person than the head coach himself. No sooner was he appointed to the post with the powers vested in him as a national selector Hathurusingha brought Mathews back as captain, only to have him ditched nine months later following the Asia Cup debacle for which Mathews was made the scapegoat for the losses and even his fitness to play one-day cricket was questioned. Ever since relationship with the head coach and the former captain has not been rosy.

What, with their being the possibility of Mathews returning to the captaincy for the World Cup, unless relationship with him are thawed it is unlikely that Hathurusingha can hold his place as head coach.

Even otherwise if Mathews is fit and makes it as a member of the World Cup side, the coach has to have a healthy environment in the dressing room.

These are issues that SLC are keen to thrash out with Hathurusingha.

The worse scenario could be if the talks with SLC and Hathurusingha falls through then there is the likelihood of Australian Steve Rixon being asked to continue in his role as interim head coach for the World Cup as well. Rixon has already been handed the role for the ongoing three T20Is against South Africa after Hathurusingha was recalled to Colombo.

What a muddle Sri Lanka has got itself into ahead of the World Cup. The least they can do is to put all these troubles aside and perform as a team and get back to winning ways, which seems a long, long time ago.

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