Atapattu aiming to keep cricket and politics separate

"I don't wish to bring in any politics"

“I don’t wish to bring in any politics”

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

Newly appointed Sri Lanka head coach Marvan Atapattu has announced that he aims to keep cricket and politics separate.

However, his aim will be a lot more easier said than done since Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is one of the most politically influenced boards in international cricket, especially when it comes to team selection.

In fact, the country’s sports minister still sends a representative to all national selection meetings and, according to Sri Lanka’s sports laws, the representative has to agree and sign his name on the team roster before the squads are made official.

“I don’t see any undue influences in Sri Lankan cricket,” Atapattu, who is Sri Lanka’s first local head coach in 15 years, said. “But I’m someone who likes to have everything transparent and fair. That’s so important when you’re working in a group. That gives everybody confidence. It’s easier to manage when everyone knows which way we are going. I don’t wish to bring in any politics.

“Political interference or any other interference – my way of doing this would be to not let anything affect the players. I’ll do my best to try and stay away from it. We will be successful if we work in a way that is transparent to our fans. I don’t think the board officials or selection committee will make any undue influences.”

Atapattu is also focusing on Sri Lanka’s next three major assignments, which will include a seven-match ODI series at home against England in November, a tour of New Zealand towards the end of December and the 2015 World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand.

“The World Cup is our immediate focus,” Atapattu said. “We have done very well in the last few months starting January. We were building ourselves up to that and we can be very happy with what we have achieved.

“I have a group of players who are willing to learn and listen. It’s up to us as a management group to manage these players and get them peaking at the right time at the World Cup. We won the last few series so our morale is high, but we have to do a lot of work ourselves. We’ve got another 14 one-day games before we play the first game on February 14.”

Atapattu is also optimistic about having both off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake and pace maestro Lasith Malinga back in action before the World Cup gets underway.

Senanayake recently underwent a remedial course at the University of Western Australia in Perth to rectify his bowling action after it was found to be illegal, while Malinga underwent ankle surgery in Australia and is expected to be out of action for the next 16 weeks.

“All going well, we’ll have Lasith’s services around mid-January,” Atapattu said. “Hopefully he can play a couple of one-dayers with New Zealand and the practice matches before he plays the actual tournament matches in the World Cup.

“Sachithra has done good work. He has done work locally with Piyak Wijetunge and Jerome Jayaratne. And he has also done work with the lab in Western Australia. Now it’s a matter of him getting a date fixed to get it retested. Hopefully he will get the clearance so SLC has given him permission to play Mercantile cricket.”

Even though they have been not been able to find any form whatsoever over the past couple of months, Atapattu believes that wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal and middle order batsman Lahiru Thirimanne will be major assets for Sri Lanka in the upcoming series against England and New Zealand, and during the World Cup as well.

“Chandimal and Thirimanne are two of our most talented cricketers,” he said. “They have developed a lot in the past three years, but that development has not been reflected in their scores – I accept that. We know that they are better than that. We expect runs from them, and are disappointed when runs don’t come.

“But when you look back at a Sangakkara or Jayawardene when they first started, and you analyse that, Chandimal and Thirimanne have done as well as them in a similar number of games. Chandimal has played 14 Tests, and if you look at where Sangakkara was at 14 matches, Chandimal is actually 11 runs ahead. Thirimanne is as good as Angelo Mathews at a similar stage in his ODI career as well. We shouldn’t panic, because they have developed. We have to try and give them a stable place, and maybe relieve them of some responsibility, and maintain patience with them.”

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