Recent losses have prompted anger, and there remain “too many cooks” in the Sri Lanka set-up: these were the grouses of interim coach Nic Pothas following the nine-wicket drubbing at the hands of India, in the first ODI in Dambulla. Pothas’ comments come less than two months after Graham Ford quit as head coach, also because he felt the team and coaching staff were subjected to too much undue influence.
While Ford never spoke out about the frustrations that led him to leave, Pothas has now made strong hints about his annoyance at outsiders meddling in team matters. He has also criticised Sri Lanka’s fickle selections.
Sri Lanka have had a long history of administrators and selectors treading on coaches’ and captains’ toes – a phenomenon that has contributed to the extremely high turnover in the head coach position, and the early resignation of several captains.
“You do get angry – to say ‘too many cooks’ is probably accurate,” Pothas said of his emotions following the recent string of losses. “You get frustrated. Am I angry with the players? Absolutely not. The players work as hard as anyone can ask of them. They’ve been superb. Support staff have been out of this world. Brilliant. They work endless hours with planning and helping the boys. You can’t fault anyone within that changing room.”
Sri Lanka’s decline in 2017 has been alarming, having featured a torrid tour of South Africa, unprecedented losses to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and most-recently a 0-3 pummeling in the home Tests against India. While at times members of the coaching staff have been optimistic the team’s form would turn around soon, no one has been able to pinpoint a specific time for when improved results can be expected. For Pothas, lack of control of team matters inhibits his ability to raise the team from their slump.
“If it was up to me and we had control over what we did, then we could probably give you a timeline [for improvement],” he said. “It’s a question you probably need to ask a few other people as well. For me, if we were left alone and you could work with this group of players, you could get some stability and consistency over a period of six months. You’d see massive improvements.
“These are seriously gifted players. You give them a little bit of time – you give them a little bit of love, a little bit of care, and build up that confidence, you’ll see results quick.”
The criticism Pothas has leveled at the selectors, meanwhile is not new. Since the Sanath Jayasuriya-led selection committee took over in May last year, Sri Lanka have fielded 40 players in ODIs – a figure the selectors have been widely panned for. This is, however, the first time a team insider has spoken out about the challenges this kind of selection policy presents.
“When you get consistency within a team of players, you will see improvements in performance,” Pothas said. “When we’re getting new players every game, it gets very difficult from a confidence point of view. From the player’s point of view it’s very difficult. It’s difficult for us – the coaching staff – to create a strategy.”
On the game itself, Pothas described Sri Lanka’s batting collapse – in which nine wickets were lost for 77 runs – as “unacceptable”. Their eventual score of 216 all out always seemed unlikely to trouble India’s strong top order.
“We probably didn’t read the situation well enough. Yes, there were some execution issues as well. What we always try to drive home in the changing room is if you make the right decision but don’t execute, we’re more than happy with that situation. Today we were a little bit more on the making the wrong decisions side unfortunately.”