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March 15, 2008
Champaka Ramanayake, the former Sri Lankan fast bowler, has been appointed the fast bowling coach of Bangladesh for the next two years. Bangladesh have also roped in the services of former Sri Lankan offspinner Ruwan Kalpage as their high performance head coach to run their National Cricket Academy, which will be set up shortly in Mirpur, Dhaka.
Speaking about his switch in allegiance, Ramanayake, who also headed Sri Lanka's Fast Bowling Academy for the past seven years said, "I would have loved to continue to help my country produce more fast bowlers, but at the same time I also had to look after myself financially. The offer from the Bangladesh Cricket Board was too attractive to turn down."
Ramanayake, 43, said he had no regrets in leaving his present job as he felt there were enough fast bowlers in the queue to serve Sri Lanka for the next two to three years. During his tenure at the academy, he had the privilege of working with many of the current crop of fast bowlers, the most notable being Lasith Malinga. He predicted that two young fast bowlers, Madura Lakmal Perera from Kalutara and Tamil Union's Suranga Lakmal, could be playing in the national team shortly.
"In the seventies and eighties the country depended to a large extent on spin," Ramanayake said. "The scenario has completely changed now with the national side sometimes fielding as many as three to four fast bowlers in a match."
He hasn't ruled out returning to his role in Sri Lanka once his contract with Bangladesh finishes. His assistant, Anusha Samaranayake, is expected to take over the role as head coach of the academy.
A Level I (English) and Level II (Australian) qualified coach, Ramanayake played first-class cricket for 20 years for Tamil Union and Galle CC, taking 480 wickets. He played 18 Tests (44 wickets) and 62 ODIs (68 wickets) for Sri Lanka between 1988 and 1995.
Kalpage's wealth of experience in coaching, including his work with junior Sri Lankan teams, helped him clinch the job in Bangladesh. Another former spinner Piyal Wijetunga, who has been assisting Kalpage, is expected to take on the role of spin bowling coach.
"It was too good an opportunity to miss," Kalpage said. "I had to think of my future. I thought here was a good opportunity for me to extend my experience and one day come back and be national coach of Sri Lanka."
Kalpage stated it was a new challenge for him to be invited to head an academy of a Test-playing nation and hoped his appointment would spark more opportunities for coaches in Sri Lanka.
"No Test playing country has made such an offer to Sri Lankans before and I consider it an honour. The experience I will gain is good for my future. It also opens the door for other Sri Lanka coaches as well. Several foreign coaches come to Sri Lanka with lucrative salaries and gain experience at different levels. This is an opportunity for us to show that we are also equally capable as the foreign coaches.
"At present we are not recognised on par with the foreign coaches in our own country. We don't have a proper salary structure in place and there is no proper grading of coaches. Thereby our coaches have no future here."
Kalpage's role as high performance head coach also involves setting up a proper A squad for Bangladesh and assisting their national team in spin bowling and fielding whenever required.
Kalpage played 11 Tests and 86 ODIs for Sri Lanka between 1992 and 1999, and is best remembered for his fielding. He assisted Trevor Chappell as Sri Lanka's fielding coach in 1999 before taking over his role in 2001. He fulfilled the task till 2005, but in 2004 he played a dual role when he was also appointed as the computer analyst of the team. He became the head coach of the Spinners Clinic in April 2006 and also coached the A team, and Under-19 and U-15 teams.