Sri Lanka has enough potential to produce great sportsmen and women, but whether the island has what it takes to do the same regarding coaches has been a topic that generates debate.
In disciplines like cricket, rugby, football, boxing and badminton, we have often seen the authorities hire expatriate coaches. It is the opinion of this writer, who has associated with expatriate coaches for many years, that they are well-qualified and plan there training sessions to generate a huge interest among participants.
However, 1996 cricket World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga thinks otherwise. He was quite scornful in a speech he made as a guest speaker when referring to expatriate coaches at a media gathering organized by Save the Sports Foundation and held at the GOH on July 27 (Tuesday). “Foreign coaches want to do the least work and take a salary home. The main purpose why these foreign coaches take up assignments in Sri Lanka is that they want to add something to their CV,” Ranatunga said when he spoke on issues like the employment of foreign coaches and former off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan taking up a coaching assignment with Cricket Australia.
Ranatunga’s comments about the role of foreign coaches in cricket were not supported by hard facts and seemed quite inappropriate. Analysts will show that most of the expatriate coaches who were signed up by the authorities did perform pretty well and infused professional thinking in to the coaching system.
The problem with most of our great sports legends is the belief they have that they can take to coaching once their careers as players are over. Coaching is a different ball game and calls for great patience, tolerance and the ability to work with players so that they can graduate to the next level. Another key factor about expatriate coaches is that they invest a lot of time and money in their sports-related research. They are also keen students of the game. The knowledge that a past player has of the game might be inadequate to take up a coaching job because assignments of this nature demand coaches to be inventive and keep a close watch over new trends in this aspect of the game.
Ranatunga said that a country like Sri Lanka didn’t need expatriate coaches and added that there was enough of locally-grown talent. He spoke fondly of his local coaches and said that expatriate coaches who were hired for jobs made contributions which were insignificant. He however, referred to the contributions made by Dav Whatmore to cricket in Sri Lanka during the 1996 World Cup. “After all, Whatmore is also one of us (Sri Lankans),” he said.
He accused the present cricket administrators for showing the door to some of the members of the 1996 World Cup winning team who had taken to coaching. “When this happens there no other option, but for these former cricketers to serve other cricket teams in the world,” Ranatunga pointed out. He was quite critical of Muralitharan taking up the coaching assignment with Australia and said that Sri Lanka should remember that the off spinner was harassed by the Australians when playing abroad. However, Ranatunga added that with the dark past that exists between Muralitharan and Sri Lanka, the island nation can consider enjoying victory because the Australians who rejected the spinning sensation have now asked for his services. He said that if he had a say in Sri Lanka Cricket he would have told Muralitharan not to accept the coaching assignment with Cricket Australia.
Among other topics spoken at the media briefing was whether Sri Lanka can produce a medal at the 2020 Olympic Games. Sri Lanka Athletics Association Secretary and athletics coach Susantha Fernando said that he didn’t see the present system producing an athlete for 2020 Olympics. He said that the many outstanding schoolboys and girls doing sport had dropped out because they didn’t see a secure future for themselves in sport. “Now the trend is to join the forces because this guarantees an income,” said Fernando who added that the standard on athletics had taken a dip.
BLA Perera of the University of Kelaniya said during his speech that Sri Lanka has set foot in a danger zone where the system doesn’t give a hint of producing any athletic stars in the future.