Fast bowling crisis not far away, warns coach


by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Rumesh Ratnayake warned that the country could suffer a crisis in the fast bowling department if remedial measures aren’t taken soon. As Sri Lanka prepared to take on Australia in a series of two T-20s, five ODIs and three Tests, the former fast bowler said he was satisfied with the current crop of fast bowlers, but was worried about the future.

"We have a dearth of fast bowling talent. I was speaking to Champaka (Ramanayake) and he reckons that although we are satisfied with what we have on the top, there’s some vacuum in the middle level and we need to address that," Ratnayake, who undertook to coach the national side for this series told ‘The Island’.

"It’s easy to say that we have a good set at the moment. But what are we going to do to reduce the vacuum? We might have to look into the school system, club structure and all. I really didn’t’ go into it and do a study as such, but it would be interesting to see why it has happened. Speaking to a few, I hear that there are no fast bowlers in the scene. To me it’s an issue," Ratnayake added.

In domestic cricket, some clubs regularly started off the attack by introducing a spinner with the new ball and the trend seems to have spread to the school structure as well. "Clubs you can say that because of wickets and what we have got to play with they can try things out. But at school level if that’s a norm that a spinner opens all the time. Then it’s worrying," Ratnayake said.

"The board is looking at it and wants to bring in a rule that a fast bowler has to bowl a certain amount of overs. We will have to do something to bring back the interest in fast bowlers before they reach the age of 18 or 19."

It was when Ratnayake was head of the Fast Bowling Unit that several young pacemen emerged and among them was Dilhara Fernando. Although Fernando has represented the country for over ten years now, he has never been consistent. Last month he returned home half way through the tour of England after getting injured with a huge question mark on his future. "I personally don’t give up on a fast bowler. I have seen guys who had been written off coming back. I was quite surprised that he has not succeeded in eradicating some of the issues he has had. It kept on going for the past ten years. The potential he had was immense."

Ratnayake has come in for high praise by captain Tillakaratne Dilshan for his coaching methods, but the coach said that he had done nothing extraordinary other than returning to basics.

"I have got the boys to work on a match scenario the other day. Even during our time we used to go to the nets and have a hit. It’s something new, but it brings your skills out in a competitive environment. It is to see how you fair in competition. It opens up the mind of the player to think that these are things we can do under pressure and when they are in a match situation if something similar arises, they have tried previously what to be done in that kind of situation. It’s nothing new, but simple things modified for people to be enthusiastic, " Ratnayake explained.

"I was very surprised when DIlshan said something like that. For them to have done so well and come to two World Cup finals, I am sure they have done something really special. You shouldn’t run anybody down. I am sure those coaches would have done something special to achieve those results."

"I get lot of support from other coaches we have. It’s not me doing it. It’s the Marvans (Atapattu), Champakas (Ramanayake), Ruwans (Kalpage) and Piyals (Wijetunga) who support me. They are very very important. It’s a collective thing."

There have been calls for Ratnayake to take up the coaching job in a full time basis, but he said he needs to prove himself with results to entertain any such ideas. "It’s lovely to hear nice things, but what I would like is to turn that into results. Can we turn that into consistent results. That’s my aim for the team and my philospy. What I want the players is to try to be the best they can. The senior players in the side have created a very healthy culture and it’s a very easy task for me."

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