Apparently, Hathurusinghe’s second stint as SL coach has come to end prematurely once again, following the same group of people who kidnapped him from Bangladesh, chose to stab him back after 17 months. So basically he has been let down by both parties involved in administrating SLC in two occasions and therefore Hathurusinghe’s service will not be available for Sri Lanka in future as well. However he seemed to learnt lessons from the past and the fate of his precursors in last decade, as he has made terms in his contract to pay him a fair compensation by SLC, in case of premature termination of his post. So SLC will not be able to easily get away this time.
Seventeen months back, Hathurusinghe was the person, everyone – Administrators, past and present cricketers, media and fans – was looking for. By now he has managed to most of them, if not all.
Where did Hathurusinghe go wrong?
For a start, giving up Bangladesh head coach job may be in an unethical way and signing with SLC, itself is the biggest mistake he has done. But, keeping it aside and let’s see a few major decisions and moves took by him during his stint and what he did right and wrong.
1. Appointing Angelo Mathews as the ODI captain
Though officially deciding and appointing the captain is a duty of the selection committee, it is well known that Hathurusinghe had unofficial say on most decisions taken by the previous selection committee, headed by Labrooy. Angelo’s assignment was such a decision. When Hathurusinghe took over, the captain in ODI team was Thisara Perera and he was the successor of a string of captains not less than five. First thing Hathurusinghe needed was a permanent captain. However, it was not easy. That time there was hardly any player who held a permanent place in the team and all probable leaders in the core have been tested and failed. Meanwhile, Chandimal was doing reasonably well in test cricket, but he had lost his charm in ODI cricket. Two options seemed to be Angelo and Chandimal. The man who held a permanent place in the team, Angelo was awarded the captaincy, despite the fact that he was the leader who shepherded the team when it touched the lowest point in SL ODI cricket history – a Series loss to Zimbabwe in 2016. However the decision to make Angelo the captain is understandable, given to the circumstances at that moment.
2. Involvement team selection
When Hathurusinghe took over, he asked for a post in the selection panel which he held in his stint in Bangladesh as well. However the constitution of SLC did not permit that movement and yet he was officially awarded powers in team selection within the tour. Furthermore it is well known that his word had an unofficial power in selecting of Squad as well. This was a center of criticism on him by many parties. Why he needed such authority? After 2015 WC, up to November 2017, Sri Lanka had tried about 45 players in ODIs. Players brought, tried, dropped and vanished. No one had a consistent go to gain experiences and confidence. Therefore once the captain assigned, the next important step was to build a core of 15-20 players and give them consistent run in the international game and give them adequate exposure and experience before they go for next world cup. Sanath and co showed that the selection committee cannot be trusted in this process. They are vulnerable to personal agendas and influences at various level. That power he got as an ‘on tour selector’ and mutual understanding built up with labrooy who let him interfere in particular decisions, helped Hathrusinghe reduce turnover of players, while key players such as Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and Dhananjaya Silva to have a consistent run in the game, despite some lean performances. In attempting to save Kusal Mendis, he was widely criticized and damaged his image, but by now Mendis has come to his rhythm.
3. Changing batting order
When taking over the head coach post, Hathurusinghe expressed his idea of making a flexible batting unit, which everyone can play in anywhere in the batting line-up according to the situation. In achieving that, the first thing he did was transforming Thisara Perera. Along with him Kusal mendis, Dhanushka Gunathilake and Dhananjaya Silva were in that process. The idea seemed great early in ODIs and T20s against Bangladesh, but later back-fired specially in Asia Cup, when Kusal Mendis was sent to open the innings and got two ducks. Then a huge voice came from past players and fans, because of which he has to go back to basic and give a specific role to players.
4. Sacking and Axing Angelo Mathews , the captain
This was the most doubtful decision took by Hathurusinghe in this period and it may be the reason for the current development around him. After Asia Cup defeat, Angelo was sacked from the captaincy and then dropped from the Odis giving to his fitness issues. Angelo and most believed that it was hathurusinghe who is behind the scene. Angelo was also in the center of criticism based on his poor captaincy, slow batting and lethargic body language he exhibited as a player. Two run-outs in Asia cup, maximized these critics and his fitness was being questioned in everywhere. The axing came with this and Hathurusinghe publically questioned Angelo’s fitness. Though Angelo took it personally and many fans are with that decision and the new selection committee head Asantha De Mel later said that he would not consider angelo for WC, if he would not fully fit which in turn an approval of Hathurusinghe’s decision.
5. Handling Media
This this the worst part of Hathurusinghe. As a Sri Lankan, he had to know that media can make or break a person. Malinga knows it very well. The arrogance he showed towards media, once they questioned him is one reason he lost an important alliance of him.
6. Developing Fast bowlers
Hathurusinghe surprised the Sri Lankan fans soon after he got his job, by introducing Shehan Madhusanka who took a hat-trick in his first ODI. He repeatedly expressed his idea of finding a few genuine fast bowlers who can be useful in the WC. He overly relied on Lahiru Kumara and CHameera, ignoring fast bowlers like Vishwa, Isuru Udana who were consistent performers in domestic cricket. Finally, injuries permitted them to find their way into the side, partially thanks to Asantha De Mel and he delivered soon, showing that Hathurusinghe has gone in the wrong path with regard to fast bowlers.