By Madushka Balasuriya
Discipline, hard work, developing young talent, creating a unique brand of cricket. Suffice to say, Mickey Arthur struck all the right notes in his first media conference as Head Coach of the Sri Lankan national team, but Arthur’s optimism may eventually turn out to be more than the usual new coach lip-service, if Sri Lanka Cricket’s rejigged national coaching structure works out as expected.
While all the spotlight was understandably on Arthur, arguably the biggest name to take over the national team reins in its history, a slew of other appointments made alongside the South African points to more concerted long-term planning. While the appointments of Grant Flower, David Saker and Shane McDermott as national batting, bowling, and fielding coaches respectively had previously been revealed, it can now be confirmed that Flower will also take over as Head Coach of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team.
SLC has also appointed Tim McCaskill to the newly-created post of Head of National Cricket Development, with SLC’s former Chief Operations Officer, Jerome Jayaratne, taking over Chief Cricket Operations Officer.
Jayaratne’s and McCaskill’s posts will be complementary, with the latter overlooking the development of Sri Lanka’s youth squads, provincial, district, and women’s teams, while Jayaratne will be tasked with overseeing the development of the national, emerging, and ‘A’ teams - all of whom will have access to coaching by Flower, Saker and McDermott.
The idea behind the restructuring is to ensure that players at all age levels are developed in a holistic, clear manner, so as to make the transition to the international stage as smooth as possible. For Arthur, who was so effusive in his enthusiasm for developing young talent, the plans SLC had put in place had unsurprisingly played a key role in his decision to take up the role of Head Coach.
“Everything that I’ve seen so far has been very, very good. It’s been outstanding. It’s a whole new structure and a very unique structure - I think it’s pretty unique in World Cricket. It’s why I prefer coaching internationally to coaching the T20 leagues, because you set-up a program for players 12 months of the year, instead of just walking into a T20 league, work there for a month and you move on to the next gig.
“I really enjoy building a relationship with these players, giving them a year program and then watching them develop, watching them perform and watching them become better and better.
“The thing that really attracted me was that I looked at the talent that was available, and that’s the key motivating factor. It’s coming to watch these young players and help these young players fulfil their potential. And it was great to be at training this morning, because the amount of talent that we have here is great.”
While Arthur’s first task will be a return to his previous employers Pakistan later this month, one eye will undoubtedly remain on the World T20 in Australia next year. Arthur explained that his and the team’s goal in the build-up will be to identify and build an “effective” brand of cricket over the course of the next eight months.
“I think it’s a very important time for us, we’ve got about 8 months. And you can’t just, a month before the event, try and put a team together, so after that little T20 tour of India in early January it’s going to be a very important time for us. We’ve got to get a brand that we want to play, we got to get a brand that we think is going to be successful in Australia, and then we’ve got to put the players around that brand and make sure we can then give them clarity, and give them opportunities, and stick with those players, give them consistency in terms of their selection.
“And hopefully we can go there and do particularly well. But that’ll be an eight month phase in order to try and get us to where we need to be.”