by Champika Fernando

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has embarked on an intensive programme under fast bowling coach Chaminda Vaas to produce a surplus of fast bowlers to the national team.

Willis s (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Willis is tasked with developing a high performance programme centre in Sri Lanka (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Speaking at a press conference held to announce the appointment of former Sri Lanka cricketers Hashan Thilakaratne and Upul Chandana as batting and fielding coaches, Simon Wills, the SLC’s High Performance Manager said that there was a great shortage of fast bowlers.

“We identified the shortage of fast bowlers and have identified 20 bowlers (from domestic arena) at the moment. They are going through a fully intensive programme under Vaas (Chaminda) and other coaches,” Willis said.

“We have to produce a surplus of players to the National team in all skills (in the long term). Naturally in this country we produce many spinners and batsmen fairly regularly. It’s obviously the fast bowling area where we have struggled in recent times. We won’t put exact numbers down because ultimately we want to produce more than those numbers. We want to produce as many players as possible to create competition (within players) so that it keeps the National players on their toes,” he added.

Speaking at the press conference, Sri Lanka head coach Graham Ford highlighted the importance of producing fast bowling all-rounders.

“The other important thing is that we have very few fast bowling all-rounders in our system. That’s where appointing an extra batting coach is extremely important. It’s just not about coaching batsmen, but also about helping ensure we get valuable runs from the tail. There are fast bowlers who can really contribute with the bat. That did not really happen in England. When we played here against Australia, spinners scored some runs in the lower order, which saw a momentum shift in some Test matches,” Ford explained.

Wills oversees SLC’s cricket academy based in Khettarama and has been entrusted with the key role in identifying talent and developing cricketers within the Sri Lankan system. Vaas who is in charge of fast bowling, will be joined by Thilakaratne as batting coach while former leg-spinning all-rounder Chandana as fielding coaching.

The decision to set up a high performance centre was based on a recommendation made by the Cricket Committee headed by former batting great Aravinda de Silva.

De Silva speaking on talent hunt said the coaching department will go in search of young talent.

“We know young players such as Dhananjaya (de Silva) and Kusal (Mendis) played extremely well against a team like Australia. We are trying to encourage coaches to identify such young talent at an early stage. Just number of runs can’t measure a player (in the domestic arena). Sometimes players may have a hidden talent,” de Silva said.

De Silva also said that all appointments to the coaching department will be based purely on talent and not to the whims and fancies of individuals.

“One thing we can assure for coaches is if they do the right thing we will back them. In the future coaches will not be appointed based on the request of any other player. It will be done only based on pure ability and performances. They (coaches) don’t have to work in a manner which depends on some players’ recommendation,” he added.