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'Exciting two years ahead for SL' - Ford

Andrew Fidel Fernando

January 14, 2014

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Graham Ford, Edgbaston, June, 1, 2013
Graham Ford: "Beating South Africa in a one-day series was something special for me. The World Tweny20 was very special, and the fact that the boys worked and got themselves into such a good position" © PA Photos
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Players/Officials: Graham Ford
Teams: Sri Lanka

At the end of Graham Ford's penultimate training session as coach, the Sri Lanka cricketers worked themselves up to a frenzy in anticipation of a challenge that has brewed for some time. Padded up and wielding willow, physio Steve Mount stepped into one of the practice nets at Sharjah Stadium and took a middle-stump guard with umpire Kumar Sangakkara's assistance. 

At the bowler's end, Sri Lanka's smallest player Kaushal Silva marked out a run-up: about a dozen paces for someone of average height, but no less than 20 for him. A wicketkeeper by trade, his task was to dismiss the batsman in three overs. Silva set an imaginary field and ran in hard.

The first ball was defended solidly, but Silva saw enough cause to approach Mount, chest puffed out, malice in his eyes. His team-mates howled in enjoyment as the protagonists hammed up the dramedy. No one remarked Silva would have had to pitch it less than a metre from the bowling crease if he wanted to bounce Mount, perhaps because the joke was a little obvious.

With only few balls to go, Silva struck Mount low on the front pad and went up in raucous appeal. Sangakkara raised his finger, along with several others, and sent Silva into raptures, sprinting up and down the net. Mount asked for a review, but there was not enough evidence in the footage - shot by the team analyst - to overturn the decision. 

After the shouts had subsided and his team had cleared out, Ford reflected on the event. "There's been a lot of talk on the bus - every day the challenge has been the main topic. It just shows the lads are in a good place in terms of team spirit and getting on together."

Seemingly not the gregarious type, Ford has nonetheless had much to do with his team's high spirits. He has overseen a year of intensive transition in the top team, and in the first two Tests in the UAE, Sri Lanka's investment in youth has begun to pay dividends. After the third Test, Ford will end his two-year stint with Sri Lanka, handing over to Paul Farbrace.

"From a performance point of view, during my time, we've seen some of these young players really start to put their hands up an make runs. Some of the Test match records for some of the younger players have been great. If look at your Test statistics of Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne, and now we see Kaushal Silva coming into Test cricket - they have been good. Dimuth Karunaratne is developing. 

"Also very, very pleasingly, we see some of the seam bowlers really start to construct spells, particularly Test-match spells. With the seam-bowling unit developing, it certainly seems as if things can go well away from home and they can cause problems for opposition on more seamer-friendly wickets. Overall the processes that have been put in place,the gradual improvements and the foundations that have been set should lead to a very exciting 18 months or two years ahead for Sri Lanka cricket.

"At the same time, the old guard have been good. It's not easy to fill the shoes of the retiring greats because they are real talents - special greats. But there's enough young talent within Sri Lanka to ensure that the team will always be a competitive international team."

The team has had largely positive results under Ford, though the 0-3 whitewash in Australia is the conspicuous exception. In 2012, Sri Lanka won their first series in three years, against Pakistan, and have more recently had a 4-1 victory over South Africa in ODIs.

"There have been a lot of satisfying memories," Ford said. "Beating South Africa in a one-day series was something special for me. The World Tweny20 was very special, and the fact that the boys worked and got themselves into such a good position - a lot of that went to plan and it was something to be proud of. Unfortunately it was also a massive disappointment to lose the final, having been so well placed. That's probably the most disappointing time."

Sri Lanka had had a nine-month lay-off from Tests, but have a busier 12 months ahead, with full tours of Bangladesh, England and New Zealand on the horizon. Ford said the Tests in England, in particular, could be a defining series.

"I think that's going to be really exciting for the players. It's going to be a good opportunity to gauge where they're at - especially being able to play in foreign conditions. The Australia tour was a disappointment, but if they can go and play very well in England, which I believe they can, they've got the players to do that. That's going to show just what a capable Test unit they are."

In limited-overs cricket, the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh and World Cup in Australia and New Zealand loom as the greatest challenges. Sri Lanka have made four major tournament finals since 2007, but have not won a trophy.

"I think they are certainly ready for the T20 World Cup, and we've got an outstanding chance of winning that in those conditions," Ford said.  "I would say they are not quite ready for the 50-over World Cup yet - got to be realistic about that. There's quite a bit of cricket to be played. There's cricket in England which will help preparations. There's cricket in New Zealand before the World Cup. I would think that with quite a number of the players that would be key to that challenge making progress, by the time the World Cup comes, we should be in a good position."

Ford's next assignment is with Surrey, with whom he begins a three-year stint in February. He did not rule out returning to coach Sri Lanka in future, citing with particular affection the bonds he had formed with the players.

"I can't say enough about the group of players that I've worked with," he said. "I'll have the fondest memories. It's a very sad time for me to be leaving them. It's been very, very special for me. I've coached a lot of teams but this group of players stand out as being absolutely fantastic. It's pretty tough as far as that's concerned. I will sit at home for many years to come thinking about the great players and great people who I've worked with in Sri Lanka."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (January 16, 2014, 18:02 GMT)

Ford is rated highly by many international players, and it's easy to see why. He is sincere, committed and intelligent. Farbrace will inherit a team on the rise thanks to Ford. Thanks Graham and best of luck in Surrey :)

Posted by MH19 on (January 16, 2014, 2:11 GMT)

You will be sadly missed. Thanks for looking after our cricket and developing players to the next level. Great to hear that you enjoyed the wonderful Sri Lankan hospitality and the company of people of SL. We wish you luck.

Posted by KingOwl on (January 15, 2014, 15:18 GMT)

It is fantastic that Graham Ford had a great time in SL. The personal connection is touching. Thank you Graham. We as fans value your service to SLC, and no doubt we will miss your service.

Posted by criclanka on (January 15, 2014, 15:05 GMT)

Thanks for the humble comments you made.After the sudden sacking of previous coach Mr Marsh you have done wonderfull job of grroming our new generation of crickerters to the international level.Recent times we have been lucky to have coaches like Moody,Whatmore and you...Wishing you good luck on you future endvours.Thank you....

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 12:51 GMT)

He faild only in One aspect.....Creating somone Who Could win us a WC Final........Tnx for ur work here.....

Posted by stormy16 on (January 15, 2014, 10:55 GMT)

Good job Graham - would love to know your views on the administrators of SLC. I think an outsiders point of view could be hugely beneficial in terms of facing reality when it comes to administration of the game in SL.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 10:37 GMT)

This shows why Kevin Pietersen rates Ford so highly. He has done a great job as head coach while remembering how hard it is to deal with the internal politics of the SL Cricket. Looks like he's made strong friendships with the players similar to how Tom Moody did in 07/08

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 9:34 GMT)

He is a great coach. period

Posted by ms2000 on (January 15, 2014, 9:22 GMT)

Thank you Mr. Ford for a wonderful job well done. Yu have brought this team from a mere club team to one of the finest Test Teams in the world today not forgeting that sri lanka has been the no 01 Twtenty team over a year now . No team can remain in that position for a long time. All that was your hard work. May you have the best of luck in your future career!

Posted by Rocky0027 on (January 15, 2014, 7:52 GMT)

@ Satchander : We Indian dont want him as Coach as he rejected the offer to be India's Coach and then later it was Gary Kirsten who was appointed. Although he has good credentials as Coach which he has proved with SA and SL bt i dnt see Coaching India.

Posted by Nmiduna on (January 15, 2014, 7:25 GMT)

yes Mr Ford, i think we Sri Lankans are nice, sometimes too nice that we allow people who are not so nice to control us.

Posted by SriLankanYoungBlood on (January 15, 2014, 6:57 GMT)

Welldone Ford.u r a great man.even 1000 words r not enough to hail ur contribution 2 SL side. Wish u Gud luck 4 ur future.Congrats

Posted by PadMarley on (January 15, 2014, 6:40 GMT)

I think he did a decent job, some solid achievements. I wont call it an exceptional achievement though. Sri Lanka needs a coach who can make them be successful in Australian soil in tests! Everyone else has done it at one point or the other and the only two exceptions are Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis.

Posted by Dharaka on (January 15, 2014, 6:19 GMT)

Thank You Graham, Sri Lanka is forever grateful. All the best for your future.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 6:13 GMT)

Lets sum up his work in 3 words JOB WELL DONE .....

Posted by Htc-Android on (January 15, 2014, 6:11 GMT)

Ford did a great job for us. He took over the coaching role when we were having tough times. Now we have so many good young players like Chandimal, Kusal, Thirimanne, Kaushal Silva, Priyanjan, Thissara in our team team.He did agreat job to develop these young players.

Posted by rshan on (January 15, 2014, 5:42 GMT)

You have done a wonderful job without much fuss and hype. Thank you Graham.

Posted by LoveLanka on (January 15, 2014, 5:03 GMT)

THANK YOU SIR! for taking the job when our team was strugling to find the right combination on everything and finaly to shape up things to a promising future ahead, which it self proves the quality you brought as an International coach. we all Sri Lankans wish you all the best in your future ventures and we hope you will come back to help us again in future. MAY GOD BLESS YOU & YOUR FAMILY.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 4:54 GMT)

Dear Mr. Graham Ford, you took a challenge to take up the Sri Lankan assignment, when Geff Marsh was terminated prematurely. Your professional approach has had an enormous impact on us and on our youngsters. You have to help us in England this summer, while you are the Surrey Coach with necessary tips. I think you have left a small legacy among our cricket community, without causing any character damages. We would welcome to Sri Lanka again in any capacity to improve our cricket. THANKS..........

Posted by satchander on (January 15, 2014, 4:27 GMT)

Mr Ford...can you take up coaching for Indian team? I really feel you could do a better job than Duncan Fletcher...

Posted by rajithwijepura on (January 15, 2014, 4:26 GMT)

@Geethike Dinith De Silva - Drop PJ ? :O you kidding right ? PJ is the best wicket keeperin the world. No team would want best WK to drop.

Posted by goldeneye075 on (January 15, 2014, 4:17 GMT)

Thank you Graham Ford for all that you have done. It is so sad to see him leave at this time, where for a moment the Sri Lankan teem just beginning to get into terms with the youth and the old guard. It really showed good promise, for the future as the team prepares for the away test tours and the World Cup 2015. Hope the incoming coach will carry out the good work done by Graham. Good Luck for the future Graham !!!

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 4:14 GMT)

Ford has done a marvelous job for Sri Lanka. The rewards of his hard work will be earned by the team in the future. It was clear that work ethic under ford was excellent. He coached the side under really tough conditions and the team was in a rebuilding state and the team has come to a certain level with him and it will be important for the boys to keep improving. Thanks Graham.

Posted by Shehan_W on (January 15, 2014, 4:14 GMT)

Although Sri Lanka lost the test series 3-0 in Australia, Sri Lanka won the T20 series 2-0 and drew the ODi series 2-2 in that tour. So Ford has done a good job with the SL team in almost every tournament. Congratulations for a Job well done.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 4:11 GMT)

Thank you Mr. Ford!!! We appreciate your assistance.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 4:07 GMT)

Thanks Mr. Ford.... Again we have proved that Sri Lankan cricketers are the best players for the spirit of the game as we have won the award for it in many occasions. Thanks Mr. Ford... You have done a great job....

Posted by shihan12 on (January 15, 2014, 3:53 GMT)

Thank you so much sir! you done a great job with our players..we are all going to miss you and hope one day we can see you again as our coach..good luck

Posted by outforhatrick on (January 15, 2014, 3:50 GMT)

Next two years are exciting for cricketing world..with two world cups coming things are heating up. for SL its a good time to confirm to themselves about their rebuilding phase, also SL should get ready to say bye to the triplet mahela, sanga and dislhan in all forms. The three are waiting for the elusive world cup triumph, denied since 2007 final. the youngsters coming through are showing lots of promise, which is a good health indicator of SL domestic cricket setup. Personally Eagerly awaiting for the worldcups and expecting again success for subcontinent teteams.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 3:39 GMT)

good coach, when he came , lot of people say ; he is only first class cricketer, why choose him????, He answered the all questions.

Posted by tanmaymore87 on (January 15, 2014, 3:36 GMT)

Indian fan here...good for Lanka that Ford's tenure is ending...the Sri Lankan management should have continued with Vaas & Attapatu...i don't understand why Asian teams bring in foreign coaches...India after bowing out of World Cup 2007 after the 1st roud started doing well under Lalchand Rajput & Robin Singh...they beat South Africa in 3 match ODI series in Ireland....beat England in test series in England after 21 years....won World T20 2007 & finally winning the tri-series in Australia & finishing the season a high...Asian teams should field their own local coaches rather than foreign ones...apart from Kirsten for India & Whatmore for Sri Lanka nobody have made impact so its better if there are local coaches...

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 3:16 GMT)

I think we should drop PJ and include Kusal in the test team for the same position. He should carry out a similar role to Gilchrist. I am not saying he would be as good but it's worth the experiment.

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