Why do you think a family man like cricket coach Graham Ford would chose to drop a less hectic coaching assignment with Surrey and grab an opportunity to be in charge of Sri Lanka cricket? Ford made the guess to this answer simple when he spoke at a well attended press conference organized in Colombo on February 2 to announce his new contract with SLC. The South African born Ford’s words, “There is nothing more special than seeing them (players) improve and play in the international scene.” tell us why he is here.
Ford is a coach whose past assignments show that he knows ways of bringing the best out of individuals despite cricket being a team sport. Cricket coaching in the international scene can be best described as an assignment where there is little or no job security at all. This is why Ford has often consulted his family when taking up overseas coaching assignments. But his present employee, SLC, has signed papers with him for a period of 45 months which means he is assured of his job till the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala told media representatives that Ford’s contract will ensure that the national team is secure. He said that the mental strength of the players needed a lift, a statement which suggests that SLC might also hire a psychologist to work with the team which is experiencing a period of transition. Ford affirmed that he would build confidence in the Sri Lanka cricket team, but warned, “I can’t put a time frame for that” and added, “I am not looking for quick fixes.”
When Ford signed up with Surrey in 2013 there were those who cautioned him that his new assignment could be best described as ‘One hell of a challenge’ due to the absence of unity among team members in London clubs. But Ford was quick to describe his present assignment as ‘an exciting challenge’.
The South African said he can’t put a deadline as to when he’ll make his players, especially the new ones, mentally tough for international cricket. But Sumathipala seemed to have clearly spelt the goal and the deadline for Ford to deliver when he said, “Sri Lanka wishes to win the 2019 World Cup.”
There were references made by the media to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena, both out of competitive cricket, and Ford responded by saying the transition of the team in international cricket should be made on a solid foundation. Many have voiced the approval of Sumathipala being voted in as SLC President because he is a believer in the best man being hired for any job associated with Sri Lanka cricket. “I don’t go by names. I will hire only capable people,” Sumathipala said hinting that people and projects that don’t meet the test of justification would be knocked off the list. When asked about Jerome Jayaratne who played the role of stop-gap coach, Sumathipala said, “Jerome is good. Ford is exceptionally good.”
Ford’s immediate assignments will be the Asia Cup and the T-20 World Cup. Sumathipala announced that Lasith Malinga will be the captain and have Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal as vice captains. When a media representative queried why SLC picked two vice captains, a move which the media representative described as unprecedented, Sumathipala replied saying, “We (Sri Lanka) don’t have to follow the world.”
Ford was approached by SLC at a time when he was employed by Surrey. He said the premature termination of his contract with the English county was a tough decision to take, but hearing so many good things about Sri Lanka cricket made decision making easy.
Ford seems a shrewd man and far thinker. He possibly foresaw that Sumathipala would be around for the next four years and hence SLC would be secure. This is a set-up which any foreigner wishes to see in a country which is noted for carrying out actions before thinking.