Few weeks ago, when Sri Lanka U19 team won the tri-series in West Indies, the support staff immediately started praising each other, going gaga over the triumph. Sachith Pathirana, the spin bowling coach, was crediting head coach Hashan Tillakaratne for the trophy win. Farveez Maharoof, as usually, was taking all the credit himself. Vinothen John, meanwhile, was busy posting countless photos on social sites, dedicating the win to Hashan in particularly. Mastermind of this success celebration, however, was Apsari Tillakaratne, the wife of Hashan, who was handling the entire campaign.
Praising colleagues after a win is an obvious thing to do. Nothing wrong in celebrating a win also. Problem is that the U19 team’s support staff has made it a habit of ‘You scratch my back, I will scratch your’s’.
Hashan Tillakaratne is a hardworking Coach. No second opinion on this! However, as for as results are concerned, he has nothing to show in last two years, except for recently tri-series win in West Indies. Moreover, his choice of support staff raises questions over his ability to take right decisions for the betterment of the team. For example, the inclusion of Sachith Pathirana as spin bowling coach. Mathumudalige Pushpkumara, probably the best coach in Sri Lanka domestic cricket for last one decade, had also applied for the post. However, Sachith was selected. On merit? Forget it. He was selected for non-cricketing reasons. First, he is the son of one of the cricket Messiah in Sri Lanka Janaka Pathirana. This itself makes him eligible for any post. Second, and more importantly, he is a close family member of Tillakaratne’s! It is a known fact that it was Hashan, who lobbied for Sachith for including him in his support staff, forcing deserving coach like Mathumudalige Pushpkumara to leave the country!
Vinothen John’s presence with the team was another main reason of disastrous World Cup campaign. A national selector, Vinothen hardly knows anything about selection. His only quality is that he is a ‘yes man’ of national chief selector Asantha De Mel. More importantly, as he doesn’t know anything about U19 cricketers, it automatically makes him utterly useless in finalizing the playing eleven, while being with the team as selector on tour. The Sri Lanka Cricket Board (SLC) surely missed a trick by not sending any of the junior selector to South Africa, in place of Vinothen John.
Dashing top order batsman Ahan Wickramasinghe was considered to be Sri Lanka’s best bet at Under-19 level in recent times. Despite his heroics leading up to the tournament, he was left out of the playing XI for the first game against India and the chaos continued in the Lankan camp when the team management decided to send him at No.8 in the must- win game against New Zealand. This one big blunder of Hashan-Vinothen itself gives an indication of their decision making ability.
The fate of U19 side, however, was decided with the arrival of Farveez Maharoof as team manager! Probably the most ‘privileged’ former cricketer in Sri Lanka at the moment, Maharoof knows how to get things done! Few months ago, he mysteriously entered in the setup as junior selector. Soon, he became team manager as well, while continuing as a commentator, analyst, presenter etc. The problem, however, started with his conduct as a team manager. As soon as he was drafted as team manager, players started focusing on consuming alcohol and carrying whiskey bottles, instead of working on their game! Insiders in the dressing room says that Maharoof is more interested in making contacts with BPL, CPL, IPL and other various T20 leagues people, instead of focusing on his manager role.
Then, there was Apsari Tillakaratne! A former women’s team’s Messiah, Apsari was handling Hashan’s PR, ever since his appointment as head coach two years ago. She had even launched a slogan for the World Cup campaign! Unfortunately, one can’t win matches and World Cup’s with PR!
For their part, president Shammi Silva led administration provided everything for the U19 team and support staff, for the best possible preparation for the World Cup. Now, as it has turned out to be a disaster, the SLC needs to ask some harsh questions to Hashan and his ‘family gang’!