Onetime discarded coach, Chandika Hathurusingha has returned to the land that evicted him from a possible coaching job this time fully armed with a rising band of cricketers and waiting to settle an old score.
The 48-year-old former Sri Lanka opening batsman would not say that he has come seeking vengeance but he made it clear he’ll mean business against a team he once harboured prideful thoughts of grooming.
“I have moved on and yes I am disappointed that I could not contribute to Sri Lanka Cricket. But I am very happy of what I am doing now”, said Hathurusingha now the coach of the Bangladesh team which arrived early this week for a Test, ODI and T20 series.
Hathurusingha said it was an opportunity for Bangladesh to show how far they have come in cricket under him.
In 2009, Hathurusingha was a so-called “shadow coach” with the Sri Lanka team but was cold-shouldered by a controversial administration headed by DS de Silva despite a pleading recommendation made by the legendary batsman Kumar Sangakkara.
With Sangakkara’s pleas falling on deaf ears, Hathurusingha was compelled to seek a job in Australia from where he moved on to Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka made a desperate move to enlist Hathurusingha last year, but he was already in a demanding position well entrenched with Bangladesh’s players who a few months ago wiped out England in a Test match.
Hathurusinghe has also brought along reinforcements in the form of ex-Sri Lanka batsman Thilan Samaraweera as an assistant coach and former First Class fast bowler Mario Villavarayen who is the team’s trainer.
Sri Lanka has already expressed anxiety over the presence of Hathurusingha and is looking for a way to buckle up.
“Thilan (Samaraweera) and Chandika (Hathurusingha) know about our weaknesses and strengths as well. I am sure they are working on it and we will have to come up with a plan”, said Sri Lanka stand-in skipper Rangana Herath.
His counterpart Mushfiquer Rahim is no stranger to Sri Lanka and has more reason to brag with Hathurusingha by his side.
“The record over the past two-and-a-half years shows that he (Hathurusingha) has been wonderful to the team. There have been a lot of improvements and hopefully that will bring us success on this tour”, said Rahim.
The two protagonists will initially throw down the gauntlet in the first Test starting on February 7 in Galle where Bangladesh dragged Sri Lanka into drawing a match in 2013 as Rahim cracked a double hundred.
Veteran Sri Lanka Cricket secretary, Mohan de Silva avoided making any comparisons between foreign and home-grown coaches and preferred to bet on a new system that has been put in place that encompasses several overseas coaches and consultants.
“When we took up office (in 2016) we were just with a stand-in coach Jerome Jayaratne who was looking after the team. But we felt there was a great need to mould and develop the team with a High Performance Centre and now we strongly believe we have the right combination of coaches to move on”, said de Silva.
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford, a South African, can only hope the team will be able to turn it around after a recent 3-0 and 5-0 drubbing in South Africa in the Test and ODI series.
Ford said there was “no quick fix” to the problem in view of the touted plans that lie ahead. “There were times we struggled a little bit, but it is important for us to get back on track. This is an important series for both teams”, said Ford.