By Shehan Daniel
Sri Lanka’s Test Captain Dimuth Karunaratne yesterday welcomed the newly inaugurated Test Championship even as Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) offered no clarity regarding the circumstances that led to the suspension of Chandika Hathurusinghe as Head Coach.
While there has been no official communication from SLC regarding the axing of its Head Coach, or indeed the reasons that a show cause letter had been sent to Hathurusinghe, SLC President Shammi Silva yesterday insinuated that the hiring of Hathurusinghe had been a mistake.
“We have sent Hathurusinghe a [show cause] letter and we will wait for 14 days for his reply and then we will take action,” Silva said, adding that SLC was ready to face any legal issues that may crop up if they were to terminate Hathurusinghe’s contract.
“I can't divulge that information [the charges he was asked to show cause for] because it is a legal matter,” he added.
However, while making a thinly veiled attack on the media, Silva implied that poor performances was one of the reasons that SLC were looking at moving on from Hathurusinghe.
“When we got Hathurusinghe one and a half years ago, it was the media that said we should recruit him. Now the media is asking us to remove him and we see this in the media and social media. We are not going to remove anyone because the media tells us to, but we look at their performance, and we have been doing that for the last one and a half years. And it is based on that that we have made this decision. I was at SLC when we recruited Hathurusinghe and we also made some mistakes. If we want to take cricket forward we need to correct the mistakes we made and that is what we are doing,” Silva claimed.
Interestingly, Silva was quick to acknowledge that the team had seen an improvement in results recently which in some small part at least came under the guidance of Hathurusinghe.
“We are improving. The last three years and eight months we had not won a home series and now we won one. The results are coming and I was also in the same committee earlier but the mistakes we have made we have to correct it and do what is good for cricket,” Silva said, crediting Chief Selector Asantha de Mel and SLC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ashely de Silva for playing a role in the reversal of fortunes.
Hathurusinghe’s contract reportedly includes clauses that will leave SLC having to incur heavy payouts to remove him and this has been one of the legal predicaments that have been posed to their legal team.
“We have sought legal advice about this issue and we will see what will happen. We need to see if we want to keep losing and save a big amount of money, or to win [after paying off Hathurusinghe] and incur a huge financial loss,” Silva said.
Fast bowling Coach Rumesh Ratnayake has been appointed as an Interim Coach, Silva said despite SLC officials indicating that its Chief Operating Officer and former Head of Coaching Jerome Jayaratne was to be given the temporary role.
Ratnayake, who held a similar role previously, will start by overseeing Sri Lanka’s two-Test series against New Zealand, starting in Galle on Wednesday.
It will be the first time both teams feature in the Test Championship, which Karunaratne believed would be a boon to the format.
“I think it’s good that there is a Test Championship, because it seemed like Test cricket was losing its appeal. Something like this is good because it will draw more people to the format and build some interest. Even the players will be more interested in playing the format.”
“This will also encourage players to continue playing Test cricket and it will be interesting because it’s how you perform over a two-year cycle. You have to play at home and away, and you have advantages and disadvantages to that. We have a good chance to do well in that championships and we have some good matches ahead, and I look forward to make the final two teams,” Karunaratne said.
New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson was equally effusive in his optimism of the championships, despite facing a tough prospect in their opening series.
“It's a great occasion, putting in a bit of context into the Test arena. There’s a huge amount to play for over the space of two years and every match counts for points that ultimately go towards what will be a great occasion and that’s playing in a finals at Lords, which brings back some recent memories,” Williamson said.
“But we're really excited to get into the Test championship and we know that over here in Sri Lanka it’s a really tough place to tour and we know how strong they are in their home conditions,” he added.
SLC also released the names of the 22 players in the squad for the two-Test series, which will be reduced to 15 ahead of the first Test.
- Four of those players – Oshada Fernando, Angelo Perera, Chamika Karunaratne and Asitha Fernando – have been included in the Sri Lanka Cricket Board President's XI Squad for the three-day warm up match that starts in Katunayake today.