June 19, 2007

Birds of a feather

At this stage Sri Lanka cherish continuity and would want Trevor Bayliss to take up from where Tom Moody left off



Trevor Bayliss: 'Tom Moody and Trevor Penney have done great work with the team and my job is to continue that' © Getty Images

The bigwigs in Sri Lanka Cricket, traditionally a bastion of incompetence and blinkered thinking, can be excused if they are in self-congratulatory mood. With the emphasis clearly on continuity they have chosen the highly-respected Australian Trevor Bayliss to take over from Tom Moody.

The management of Sri Lanka Cricket has improved to the extent that Moody was able to forge a remarkably harmonious relationship with his employers. He was given the freedom to build a proper coaching structure and was treated with a professionalism that helped erase the damaging global perception that Sri Lanka Cricket was a home to crooks, cronies and incompetents.

The early indications are that Trevor Bayliss is cut from a similar cloth to Tom Moody. In the only interview he conducted before rushing back to New South Wales, Bayliss described himself as a "practical kind of coach". The rest of the interview in The Island was music to the players' ears: in a nutshell he seems to want to build on the progress under Moody and not set off in a new direction. "Tom Moody and Trevor Penney have done great work with the team and my job is to continue that," he told The Island.

Prior to the final selection the shortlist comprised Bayliss, Terry Oliver and Jamie Siddons, all recommended by Moody, who knew just what type of coach Sri Lanka needs. Siddons, the head coach at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, was snapped up in a hurry by Cricket Australia, but both Oliver and Bayliss enthusiastically travelled to Colombo for interviews. Away from the overwhelming glare of the media, the candidates presented their ideas to a highly qualified Cricket Committee, who in turn quickly reached a decision. Oliver, the coach of Queensland, impressed first, but the committee was more convinced by Bayliss.

Coaching Sri Lanka may be exhilarating and fulfilling at times, but it can also be frustrating in a real tear-your-hair-out way. Bayliss will start from a solid platform with a talented squad, a fine captain, a listening selection chief and a supportive cricket board, but he must not kid himself that this is the natural order for a foreign coach in Sri Lanka - he must brace himself for the journey of a lifetime

"I guess I am a practical kind of coach, bringing in adjustments where they have to be brought in, but without stifling ingenuity. Coaching has changed over the years with advancing technology, but the basics never change," Bayliss told The Island.

This suits Sri Lanka to a T. They want someone to add structure and direction to their natural flamboyance. The team needs organisation and careful one-on-one management, not grandiose ideas and high-tech gadgetry. Most of all, they yearn for continuity. The team is ambitious, motivated and internally united. What they want is someone to steer a similar course to Moody, arguably the most successful coach in Sri Lanka's history - although Dav Whatmore is the only one with a World Cup winner's medal.

The key test for Bayliss, though, will be whether he can match Moody's behind-the-scenes authority. Moody was not publicly demonstrative, retaining a calm composure throughout, but he was not afraid to speak his mind in private when players stepped out of line.

The fact that he played for Australia gave him an obvious advantage over Bayliss, who boasts only a modest first-class record for New South Wales, but Sri Lanka's current set of players are not obsessed with status: if Bayliss can coach then he will soon win their respect.

Bayliss - who claims to have little interest in music or movies but has a passion for baked dinners, according to The Island - will be helped by Rumesh Ratnayake, the new assistant coach. His appointment will not only placate the nationalists; it was a long overdue recognition that he was a fine bowling coach who was wasted as a development officer for the Asian Cricket Council.

In addition, Bayliss is expected to bring a possible fielding coach to ensure that the great progress under Penney, an assistant coach with an evangelical passion for fielding, is not wasted.

Bayliss, who has rarely stepped out of New South Wales, has played and coached for most of his life in the state, so he will need to come to Colombo in August with a very open mind. But his "eagerness to step out of his comfort zone", as he calls it, is an encouraging prerequisite for succeeding here.

Coaching Sri Lanka may be exhilarating and fulfilling at times, but it can also be frustrating in a real tear-your-hair-out way. He will start from a solid platform with a talented squad, a fine captain, a listening selection chief and a supportive cricket board, but he must not kid himself that this is the natural order for a foreign coach in Sri Lanka - he must brace himself for the journey of a lifetime.

Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent