Sri Lanka begin headhunting coaching staff


Mickey Arthur

by Rex Clementine

The headhunting of new coaching staff for the national cricket team has started with Sri Lanka Cricket indicating to their current coaching staff that their services are no longer required after this month. The three match ODI series against Bangladesh that’s coming up will be the last assignment of the current lot. The biggest casualty will be Head Coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who despite having 16 months more in his three year contract will cease to function in his role.

Since Trevor Bayliss saw off his four year term in 2011, no Sri Lankan coach has finished off his full term with some resigning from the position while other being sacked. SLC could create a World Record at this rate having had nine Head Coaches in the last eight years. The average term in office for a Sri Lankan Head Coach seems to be less than one year. Our cricket bigwigs certainly have something to learn from the UNP, who for the last 25 years have had one leader. Whether the party wins elections or not isn’t a concern for the UNP leadership.

Not all coaches have taken their unceremonious sacking by SLC on the chin. Geoff Marsh, who had won both the Ashes and World Cup as coach of Australia sued SLC successfully for a hefty sum for wrongful termination of contract.

Chandika Hathurusingha is unlikely to take any blow for his reputation casually as well especially after SLC clipping his wings lead up to the World Cup. One condition that Hathurusingha had when he joined SLC was that he wanted a say in selections but even before a year passed, SLC removed him as a selector.

This largely undermined Sri Lanka’s World Cup campaign as four players, who hadn’t been in World Cup plans, were parachuted to the squad. Three of them had not played an ODI for at least 18 months while Jeevan Mendis had last played an ODI more than four years ago. All four players were flops in the World Cup. If parties go for arbitration, Hathurusingha will have a strong case to argue.

Englishman Paul Farbrace strangely has emerged as the leading candidate to take over the coaching position.  He seems to be the favourite of some senior players and Sports Minister Harin Fernando is believed to be directly dealing with Farbrace.

Farbrace, 52, left a bad taste in many mouths when he vacated Sri Lanka’s Head Coach position just a few months into his contract to join England as assistant to Trevor Bayliss in 2014. The timing of Farbrace in particular was worrying as he joined England a mere three weeks before Sri Lanka undertook a tour of the UK.

Farbrace is currently Sports Director of English county Warwickshire.

LC CEO Ashley de Silva is believed to be negotiating with several county coaches in England and some Sheffield Shield coaches in Australia.

Mickey Arthur, who has now coached three international teams – South Africa, Pakistan and Australia also seems to be in the running. However, Pakistan Cricket Board is believed to have shown interest to retain Arthur, who once famously suspended Australian stars Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson from a Test match in India for failing to do their home work.

SLC had shown interest in retaining Steve Rixon as well, another coach who has lot of international experience and he could have been a possible candidate to take up as Head Coach. But the 65-year-old wasn’t keen on renewing his contract.

Sri Lanka have back to back bilateral series over the next three months. New Zealand will be here in August for a two match Test and three game T-20 series while Sri Lanka will take on Pakistan away from home. Whether the series will be played in Pakistan or UAE remains to be seen. The larger picture for SLC is to ensure that they qualify for next year’s World T-20 to be played in Australia.

Having won the event in 2014, the predicament of Sri Lankan cricket is evident by the  fact that five years later they don’t even automatically qualify for the event.

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