SL Cricket– Text Book coaching?
Sri Lanka Cricket Coaching Section has recently reported that "SL NEEDS NO TEXT BOOK COACHING" ( 28th January)- surprising when one examines its implications in light of both the repeated failings of the national and age squads and the evidence at the grassroots coaching level.
Head Coach Jerome Jayaratne tried to make a case for "no Text Book Coaching" by citing the example of Ajantha Mendis whose meteoric rise from humble beginnings, an unfancied school in Moratuwa and the Tier B Army team to world stardom was based on talent and not nurture.
The Head Coach stated "Mendis himself, Lasith Malinga, Sanath Jayasuriya and even Murali are all products of a coaching culture that has embraced and encouraged unorthodox styles to bloom." He claims that their coaching systems focus mainly on identifying natural talent, refining it to the next level and not changing someone’s base technique it at all.
The claim of indentifying talent – is it true or false? The poor performance of the squads speaks for themselves. Most cricket coaches and schools say that the Coaching Section fails repeatedly in identifying the best talent in the country. They hardly look further than the favourite schools (mainly Colombo) and their favourite coaches in the districts.
What chance do talented cricketers from the outstations have when there is no realistic, fair and efficient talent identifying mechanism and development process from the SLC Coaching Section?
For Mr. Jayaratne (and his predecessor) to claim praise for "identifying" Ajantha, Malinga, Jayasuriya or Murali is laughable and dishonest. Ajantha Mendis was not identified by the system. He was refused school entrance by the top schools in Moratuwa: Prince of Wales and St Sebastian’s and he was ignored by SLC until he was picked up by an Army cricket scout for the Army Tier B team at the age of 21!
Neither were Malinga, Jayasuriya or Murali identified and picked out by the coaching system. The truth is that these talented outstation cricketers all failed to get identified and developed by the system and owe their success to their outstanding individual talents.
The existence of special coaching schemes run by ex-national players (some financed by unhealthy fizzy drinks companies) that go out to the outstations with much publicity "to find talent" is a sign of FAILURE of the coaching system in NOT finding and developing the country’s cricket talent.
Another more serious implication is the claim by the Head Coach that they do not alter or change the base technique of the identified players. The evidence is to the contrary: almost every coach and school complain that when their kids get to the SLC Coaching Section they are forced to alter their technique and come back confused and sometimes worse off.
What is not understood is that altering technique is not bad per se. This happens all the time at every level of the game. But it must be relevant and adequate. And changes should not be left to the last (top) level. The Head Coach ought to know about the coaching input ratio: 99% at Under 9; 10% at U19 and 1% at national level.
He ought to know about the modern cricket coaching strategy: Long Term Cricket Development Process. Put simply this means that at every coaching level/age the aim should be to develop all the skills and attitudes needed for maximum performance at the top level. This implies that coaches have to encourage players to change at an early stage to meet the standards needed at the national level.
It is because of this thoughtless type of coaching that we get batsmen like Chamara Silva discarded once his technical faults are exposed; Upul Tharanga – a batsman who is incapable of moving his feet; and the "diamond studded" fast bowler who can’t stop bowling no balls.
National coach, Bayliss said "the national players have to learn the little things such as watching the ball, calling early or not turning blind when running between wickets and sliding the bat". What on earth have these pampered, money grabbing cricketers been doing all these years at the SLC coaching section?
It is pointless using phrases such as "Text Book coaching". Modern cricket is aptly described by the late Bob Woolmer: "Cricket now is a serious science, the real art is in coaching it". Cricket coaching today is evolving and uses principles not only of the science of cricket but of other sciences too. Just ask the dozens of fast bowlers whose actions have been change to avoid serious damage to their bodies.
The Head Coach should not be so quick to gain unwarranted praise for things they have not done. Rather he would be better employed in trying to identify and develop all the cricketing talent that lies in the streets of Colombo and in the fields and playgrounds of outstation Sri Lanka.