By Champika Fernando
When the coalition of Thilanga Sumathipala and Jayantha Dharmadasa convincingly beat the group led by once-powerful board secretary Nishantha Ranatunga at the Sri Lanka Cricket election in 2016, expectations were high of the new administrators.
Twenty months into their first term, they have achieved little in respect of their promises of good governance, transparency and, more importantly, improvement of the game. Sri Lanka are now one of the lowest ranked teams among ICC full members across all three formats.
They even face the threat of missing out on a direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup. (Only the top eight teams, including hosts, qualify directly while the other teams must play qualifying matches for the remaining two slots).
The slide has been attributed to the long transition following the retirement of Mahela (Jayawardene), Kumar (Sangakkara) and Tilakaratne (Dilshan) but has the board made the right decisions to enable a smooth passage?
SLC had made several key changes--from shuffling players like a pack of cards to rotating managers, coaches and selectors--to achieve short term results. But they have, instead, destabilized the team with the confidence of players and support staff taking a huge beating.
Here are some of alterations to the national team during the last 20 months and their possible impacts on the team:
Suspension of bowling coach Anusha Samaranayake
Fast bowling coach Anusha Samaranayake was suspended pending inquiry against an alleged attempt to fix a cricket match. There was no concrete evidence against him but SLC initiated a probe to determine whether Samaranayake had a role in the fixing-related approach of more than one Sri Lanka cricketer in 2015.
The ICC has since informed the SLC there was no proof Samaranayake had breached its Anti-Corruption Code but he remains "suspended". He was a key figure in the coaching department and contributed towards the development of several players like Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep.
February 2016: Graham Ford’s re-entry
Graham Ford served Sri Lanka Cricket for two years from 2012-2014. He moved to Surrey, an English County, before Sri Lanka wooed him back for a longer stint last year.
Knowing the workings of the institution well, Ford had his reservations but a request from Sangakkara saw the former South African cricketer taking a 45-month coaching contract to see the national team through the transition.
March 2016: Selectors sack
Just hours before team’s scheduled departure for the World T20 tournament in India, the selection committee headed by Kapila Wijegunawardene was sacked when they refused to toe the line of the board and Ministry of Sports. Wijegunawardene claimed the team was selected according to the whims and fancies of the board and Sports Minister.
Enter Aravinda and Co.
Aravinda de Silva replaced Wijegunawardene on an interim basis. His team included Kumar Sangakkara, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Lalith Kaluperuma.
Their immediate task was to pick the squad for the T20 World Cup which Sri Lanka exited in the first round.
Malinga resigns as T20 skipper
Lasith Malinga resigned as T20 skipper and was replaced by Angelo Mathews for the T20 World Cup.
Malinga was retained in the side, despite a recurring knee injury only to return from India without playing a match.
April: Charith Senanayake new team manager
Two years after he was sacked, Charith Senanayake re-entered as manager of the cricket team.
The no-nonsense former cricketer had a short stay, however, as he was replaced by Ranjit Fernando in December as part of SLC’s rotation policy.
Senanayake remained in office but never had a role to play.
May: Aravinda takes up cricket advisory post
Aravinda de Silva resigned as chairman of selectors and was replaced by Sanath Jayasuriya who made his entry for the second time.
The committee included Romesh Kaluwitharana, Ranjith Madurasinghe and Eric Upashantha.
They were appointed initially for a one-year but were extended by six months to end in December 2017. Jayasuriya is one of the greatest players Sri Lanka have produced but a lack of consistency in selection saw more 44 players being tried out in ODIs.
June/July: Willis and Pothas join SLC
Englishman Simon Willis joined Sri Lanka Cricket as the high-performance manager, a newly created position within the board.
A former South African cricketer Nic Pothas was appointed fielding coach of the national team.
However, during the last six-months alone, Sri Lanka have missed as many as 56 catches--an alarming record, largely arising from mediocre performances.
December: Ranjit Fernando replaces Charith Senanayake as team manager
Charith Senanayake was replaced by Ranjit Fernando as team manager. The board said it took a policy decision to rotate the managers and other supporting staff but Senanayake was never considered after that.
Steve Mount ended his contract as the team physiotherapist and was replaced by Englishman Nick Lee
March 2017: Enter Gurusinha
Asanka Gurusinha was appointed as cricket manager, a role tailormade for the former Sri Lanka cricketer. He soon became a powerful figure within the national team with authority superseding that of the head coach.
Relations between Gurusinha and Ford turned sour. Gurusinha recently admitted that though he didn’t interfere with Ford’s working, Ford had thought otherwise. He is also part of the selection committee.
May 2017 : Donald trumps Aravinda
Sri Lanka hired former South African fast bowler Allan Donald for a two-month stint as fast bowling coach. This meant Champaka Ramanayake, who was bowling coach, missed the Champions Trophy as the board opted to take Donald with the team.
This appointment did not go down too well with Aravinda de Silva, head of the cricket committee, who immediately resigned.
June: Ford resigns, Pothas interim coach
Graham Ford resigned as head coach ending his 45-month stint prematurely. His first stint was a great success but his second was destined to fail. With a young side, Ford knew the road was bumpy and repeatedly called for patience towards the players. He had some success.
Sri Lanka beat Australia 3-0 at home, the best performance by the islanders against the men from down under. They also beat Zimbabwe in a Test series. But there followed a period of disaster.
The South African Test and ODI defeats saw SLC enlisting Asanka Gurusinha, former World Cup-winning cricketer, as cricket manager.
There were differences between the two with Ford believing that Gurusinha was trespassing into his territory.
Relations deteriorated further and the rest is history. Upon Ford’s exit, fielding coach Nic Pothas was promoted as interim head coach. Under Pothas Sri Lanka conceded their first-ever limited-over series defeat to Zimbabwe.
Sri Lanka lost the five match series 3-2. Sri Lanka won the one-off Test but it was not a convincing effort.
July: Mathews resigns from captaincy
The limited-over series defeat saw Angelo Mathews relinquishing his duties as national skipper. He was under tremendous pressure since the South African series where his tactics were questioned by many. He was to be Sri Lanka’s skipper until the 2019 World Cup but it came to a point where he no longer enjoyed the role.
Chandimal, Tharanga new captains
Following Mathew’s resignation, the selectors made a split captaincy. Dinesh Chandimal was appointed Test skipper while Upul Tharanga was given the limited-over captaincy—ODI and T20.
Their appointments were no surprise as both have led the team at different levels but whether these two could take Sri Lanka out of the rot remains to be seen.
Hashan new batting coach
Former Sri Lanka skipper Hashan Thilakaratne joined Sri Lanka Cricket as a batting coach but is soon promoted to the national team.
Vaas replaces Ramanayake as bowling coach
Champaka Ramanayake, one of the few long standing members of the national coaching staff, decided to step down citing personal reasons.
It was well known that Ramanayake was unhappy when the board dropped him from the Champions Trophy coaching staff.
Chaminda Vaas, who was national team’s fast bowling coach until the 2015 World Cup, returns to fill the void on a temporary basis.