Ford hinted that Sri Lanka’s future could be bleak if younger batsmen are not found soon
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford has announced that the national team need more young batsmen to come in from the domestic circuit in order to replace the older, ageing superstars.
Ford noted that Sri Lanka would struggle at the international level if replacements for Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera, all of whom are in their mid-thirties and approaching retirement, are not found soon.
“What is really important for Sri Lanka cricket now is be aware that some of these players – superstars who have done great service to the game – are not going to be around for that much longer and an emerging player program of real intensity needs to be put in place urgently,” Ford said. “We need to start producing some more superstars and we need it to happen pretty quickly. That I see as a very important part, as to the future for Sri Lanka.”
Ford also praised many of the senior players for the amount of advice they have been passing on to young debutants.
“Some of them have done fantastically well and are very professional,” he said. “We also have a few young guys who have come in and who have quite a bit to learn. Our coaches need to be a little bit different from player to player. The example set by some of the senior players is fantastic for the younger guys coming through. If we can keep that going, in time it will become part of the cricketing culture in the dressing room.
“I’ve really tried to introduce the adult approach in terms of players taking on the responsibility for their preparations and their performances. The coaching staff is always available to support them in whatever way they need, but they must make decisions about their cricket and how they are going to go about their business and for them to implement those decisions. I am really trying to get each individual to be as professional as possible.”
Ford took over as head coach in some rather controversial circumstances last year after Sri Lanka decided to terminate Geoff Marsh’s contract out of the blue.
Marsh had only coached Sri Lanka during their tours of England and South Africa before being replaced by Ford.
Ford noted that he was grateful for the opportunity and admitted that he and Jayawardene had established a healthy relationship, despite there being some language barriers initially.
“Initially the language barrier with a number of players was a challenge, fortunately with a great captain and some of the senior players who do speak English pretty well and, the coaches I managed to overcome a lot of those challenges,” Ford added. “They’ve been great in helping along the way.”
Since the retirement of spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka have been striving for consistency across all three formats, but this has not been the case as of late, especially in the longest format of the game.
“I came in pretty suddenly and it all happened very quickly, so that was a challenge,” Ford said. “It has been very enjoyable, there has been some tough times and tough days but part of what is exciting is to witness the fight and character within the group along the way over the ten months. On a number of occasions the chips have been down, times have been tough and they’ve bounced back fantastically in one-day cricket and Test match cricket. It’s brilliant to be part of something like that.
“We have achieved reasonably well. The triangular in Australia was encouraging, just disappointing we couldn’t win the final. Against England in the Test series, to win one against them when they were riding high as the No. 1 Test side was good but disappointing to let them level the series. It was a real opportunity to win a series against a top side. Against Pakistan, a very dangerous side, to win both Test and ODIs was a really good achievement.
“We were disappointing in the ODIs against India and the whole nation was disappointed that we didn’t win the T20 World Cup. It was a very tough tournament, a lot of good teams, and to get as close as that, everybody dreams of winning it, not that we didn’t try, but we really did play some fantastic cricket and produce some wonderful results.”