The team that played in 1996 World Cup and next few years after that, could easily be described as the best ever in Sri Lanka cricket history. With players like Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda De Silva, Roshan Mahanama and an astute captain Arjuna Ranatunga, those days Sri Lanka was unbeatable in World cricket! Fortunately for Sri Lanka cricket, the next generation of players like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakratne Dilshan, Maravn Attapatu, Russell Arnold turned equally world class, who were the architect of many famous wins of the tiny Island.
All those years, which could be easily termed as the golden era of Sri Lanka cricket, one thing remained intact: the belief of those world class players in an domestic coach Nishantha Hennayake!
Outside Sri Lanka, cricket fans may have not heard much about Hennayake! But, in Sri Lanka cricket circle, he enjoys a cult status!
The old Fingara net has witnessed over last two decades, how frequently some of the greatest batsmen like Jayasuriya, Attappatu, Dilshan visited there to get batting tips from Hennayake.
“He (Hennayake) is one of the best skilled coach in Sri Lanka. He has that ability to find the batters weakness so easily, that makes him an unique batting coach” one of the legendary former player, who always believed in Hennayake advise, told Cricket Age.
Hennayake learnt coaching from batting guru Mathau, who was the head coach of Sri Lanka cricket academy, an initiative of former SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala. Mathau also served as the batting coach for IPL Team Kolkata Knight Riders, when Dav Whatmore was the head coach.
“As a batsman, if you wants to improve your technique and wants to solve batting deficiencies, then he (Hennayake) is the best person in Sri Lanka” another former player, who played most of his cricket from 2004 to 2008, told Cricket Age.
However, as it has always been a norm with Sri Lanka cricket, he couldn’t go too far at national level, mainly due to internal cricket politics and lack of support from the system.
“Unfortunately, even though many legendary cricketers used to seek his advice throughout their careers, when there was high time to recommending him, no one came forward” one of the close associate of Hennayake told Cricket Age.
However, it has made little impact on his undying love for the game.
“He is still passionate about the game. He is is still mentoring the young generation in becoming best in the business. That’s the only thing he knows as a batting coach” Hennayake’s close associate added.