Even last month, at the start of Tri-series in Bangladesh, people kept on saying, even Chandika Hathurusingha cannot change this team. But when someone like Chandika is around, things are bound to change as he is the master of bringing back teams on track.
They had an awful start to the Tri-Nation ODI series, having been beaten by Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. But stuck to their guns and came out fighting to clinch the title with some back-to-back inspiring performances. A new life was infused in this languishing Sri Lankan side and left no stones unturned in their preparations. They punched above their weight to win the final and did well to carry the momentum in the Test series as well.
Beating Bangladesh in their backyard is a massive achievement for any side. After a promising campaign in the ODI series, Sri Lanka were brimming with confidence. They remained winless in their last seven ODI series and needed a win desperately to get the momentum going. Under the watchful eyes of coach Chandika Haturusingha, Sri Lanka showed signs of improvement in the ODI series and needed to replicate it in the Test as well.
A coach plays a pivotal role in shaping a team, infusing confidence and grooming them. This under-construction Sri Lanka side needed an experienced hand to make them believe what they can achieve and the kind of potential the side has. Chandika Haturusingha’s appointment was a smart move. As a coach, he has proved his worth in gold in the past and has made a solid start with Sri Lanka as well.
Even the most loyal Sri Lankan fans hung their boots after the tragic defeat against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but Haturusingha had other ideas. Despite losing few key players, there weren’t any signs of panic and the coach as well as the team remained calm and performed, which was a masterstroke. Haturusingha is outstanding when it comes to man management and handpicking players. Shehan Madushanka’s inclusion in the final corroborates the belief. At this level, small moves make a huge difference.
In the Test series opener, Bangladesh did a commendable job in posting a mammoth first innings total. Although it was a flat track, but still the run-scoring had to be done. Sri Lanka had a task in hand, they haven’t fared well in Test cricket for a while and took a beating against India in India. But this time, they were not going to get bogged down. Bangladesh had over 500 runs on the board and the pressure was certainly on Sri Lanka to deliver.
Sri Lankan batsmen came out all guns blazing and put up an astounding 713 runs on the board, which is a record in itself. The match ended in a draw and the final encounter was winner takes it all kind of a game. Coming to Dhaka, Sri Lanka had a point to prove. They needed a victory, they needed a push, they needed to achieve this milestone.
When Sri Lanka were bowled out for 222 in the first innings, not many would have predicted the kind of havoc Sri Lankan bowlers were going to wreak. Although Bangladesh gifted a lot of wickets to Sri Lanka, but the visiting side did well in pouncing on those opportunities. They fought fire with fire and dismantled Bangladesh for 110, gaining a healthy lead.
They came out hard once again in the second innings, setting a formidable target of 339 runs. Sri Lanka won the game by a massive margin of 215 runs and with it the series. Roshen Silva was magnificent with the bat while Akila Dananjaya was the pick of the bowlers in the second innings, scalping his maiden Test fifer on debut. He is an unorthodox spinner and has been tipped to make it big for Sri Lanka, but has never been in the scheme of things consistently. He was handed the Test cap in a crunch situation, and the talented spinner delivered. It was a gamble and it paid off beautifully.
This was clearly an indication the kind of self-confidence this side has generated and kind of enthusiasm and momentum Haturusingha has injected. So far, Haturusingha has stood out in two assignments assigned to him (the ODI series and Test). This is a testament to his excellence as a coach and one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Sri Lanka will certainly regain its lost glory soon if they keep fighting in this manner.
A team needs to overcome a huge mental barrier when it is going through such a rough patch. They need a change in mentality, change in their approach, which a mentor or a coach can bring. Sri Lanka have always shown occasional sparks of brilliance across formats but failed to replicate it on a regular basis. The mind-boggling victory against Indian in the ICC Champions Trophy encounter and the Test series win against Pakistan in UAE are vital proofs of their capability in the recent times.
Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal also spoke highly about Haturusingha’s strategies. “Actually, it was a hard time for the team and the Sri Lankan fans over the past two years, especially in the one-day format. But now, with the new coach, we’ve got some new strategies. We’ve got a lot of faith in him, and we’ve got some confidence. We’re not thinking about the result. We are always thinking about how to play good cricket when we’re in the middle. That’s the main change we have in the team,” Chandimal said before the Tri-Nation series final.
With a 100 percent success rate from his first two assignments, Haturusingha’s next target will be to acquire the Twenty20 International (T20I) series title. And the preparation for the same has already begun. Don’t be surprised, if Sri Lanka continue their winning momentum and snatch the shortest format title too. Sri Lanka are regaining that faith gradually and the road looks promising. Haturusingha has a task in hand and one can expect good things coming Sri Lanka’s way in future.