Cricket is a game of uncertainties and life is no different. Like the game of cricket, life also doesn’t fail to surprise us with its unexpected twists and turns. One moment it knocks us down and the very next moment it thrusts us up to soaring heights.
Chandika Hathurusingha’s coaching career had hit rock-bottom in June 2010 when Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) sacked him from the position of a ‘shadow coach’ on disciplinary grounds. Eight years down the line, Hathurusingha’s life has taken an unexpected, yet pleasant, turn. The 49-year old has been called up by Sri Lanka again to take the mantle of coaching the team — this time, however, in an upgraded role as the head coach.
The former Sri Lankan all-rounder’s career started in 2003 when he guided the unfancied Moors SC to Sri Lanka’s first-class title as a player-cum-coach. He was quick to realise his potential as a coach and retired as a player immediately after guiding the Moors to the Premier League title as well in the 2004-05 season.
A one-year stint as the coach of UAE followed and he was named coach of Sri Lanka A team on a three-year contract in 2006. He was in charge during a highly successful tour with the A side in South Africa in 2009. The then Sri Lankan Test captain, Kumar Sangakkara, had realised his potential and hence had asked the board to appoint him duties of the senior side.
He was progressing steadily as an understudy to the then Sri Lankan coach Trevor Bayliss and was even expected to take up the reins from him after the 2011 World Cup. However, in May 2010, the tour of Zimbabwe happened and everything turned upside down for Hathurusingha.
An early departure in the middle of the tour resulted in him falling out with the then SLC President DS de Silva. Hathurusingha was expected to join a training programme for coaches in Australia after the tour, but De Silva had given him clear instructions to not leave the team if they qualify for the finals of the tri-series in Zimbabwe. However, he did what he was forbidden from doing and flew back to Sri Lanka in an urge to visit home before departing for Australia, of course, after taking oral permissions from coach Trevor Bayliss and the team manager.
However, that didn’t go well with De Silva and Hathurusingha was sacked in the following month despite a difference of opinion among board members. However, he didn’t lose hope and focused on improving himself. He migrated to Australia before serving as the coaching consultant of Canada in the 2011 World Cup. Successful stints as the assistant coach of New South Wales from 2011 to 2013 and coach of the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League in the 2013/14 season followed.
And then Hathurusingha got the opportunity he was waiting for. Bangladesh appointed him as their head coach in May 2014. During his three-year stint, Bangladesh rose in stature as a cricket team.
Although, his last assignment with Bangladesh in South Africa didn’t yield fruitful returns, he would always remember what he achieved with that young and inexperienced side in the time preceding the South African tour.
Qualifying for the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup in Australia for the first time in history was the first of the many feats that Bangladesh achieved during his reign as the head coach. Consecutive ODI series victories against India, Pakistan and South Africa just served as the icing on the cake.
And when they made it to the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy in 2017, Bangladesh’s transformation under Hathurusingha was complete. Under his tutelage, Bangladesh made big strides particularly in ODI cricket. However, they didn’t have to wait long to enjoy Test success as well. Test victories against Sri Lanka, England and Australia earlier this year only increased his reputation as a coach with a fine cricketing brain.
And now, he has again been tasked with the responsibility of leading the renaissance of the Sri Lankan national team as their head coach. Although, he couldn’t achieve much for Sri Lanka as a player having played only 26 Tests and 35 ODIs, Hathurusingha has the chance of making the most as the coach specially when his country needs him the most.
Starting 20 December, he will take up his role and would try to chalk out plans along with Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews — the players who realised their potential under his tutelage in the Sri Lanka A team back in 2009.
Can he make Sri Lanka great again? Can he turn their fortunes around? Can he make them the same Asian giants they once used to be? Only time will tell.
Hathurusingha should promise himself to make his second chance count. Sri Lanka are counting on him. They are in dire need of his skillset and guidance to rise up as one of the top-ranked cricket-playing nations once again.