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July 17, 2011
"Taking on Australia is a huge challenge," Ratnayake said. "They are like a wounded tiger after losing the Ashes and the World Cup and they will be hungry. We need to be twice as hungry as they are, adopt smart options and play the kind of cricket we are recognised for."
Ratnayake, a fast bowler who played 23 Tests and 70 ODIs for Sri Lanka, will coach the team only for the home series against Australia, which includes three Tests, five one-day internationals and two Twenty20 internationals. It is a similar role to that of his successor, Australian Stuart Law, who quit as interim coach after the recently concluded tour to England to take up a full-time appointment as Bangladesh coach. Sri Lanka has not yet found a suitable replacement for Trevor Bayliss since he quit his position as head coach after the 2011 World Cup in April.
One of the challenges facing Ratnayake will be to deal with the increased expectations in Sri Lanka after their successes, particularly in the one-day format, in recent years. "We have performed extremely well in the recent past to enter the finals of two successive World Cups. It is something I wouldn't have dreamt of. The expectations are high because the team has started to win. Consistency is something we need to work on. We lacked that in England."
Another aspect Ratnayake said he would focus on is player management, and making sure players get enough rest. "Cricket has gone through the roof. Today it is played at different intensities and that's why management of players is important. For the amount of cricket they play today the recovery period is another important area."
Ratnayake said the Sri Lanka team was going through a period of rebuilding with the main focus being the next World Cup in 2015.
"Although we need to take the chance to introduce new players into the team there is also the now factor to be considered. With the schools producing players at a good rate, and the A team as well as the Development and Academy squads doing well there is plenty of back up for the national team, but it needs to be handled properly."
Part of Sri Lanka's rebuilding will possibly include identifying a new captain who can lead them in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Tillakaratne Dilshan, who took over as captain after Kumar Sangakkara relinquished the post after the 2011 World Cup, is 34 years old, and Ratnayake said it was important other players also started taking on the responsibility of being leaders in their own departments.
"We need to have small leaderships in the team. Everybody should take on leadership roles if we are to become a winning unit."
An Australian and Asian Cricket Council qualified level 3 coach, Ratnayake was previously involved with the national team as assistant coach to Dav Whatmore for a brief period during India's tour to Sri Lanka in 2001. He was at the time head of the Sri Lanka Pace Academy as well. It was shortly after the series that he got the job of development officer with the ACC, a post which he still holds. Sri Lanka Cricket asked the ACC to release Ratnayake from his duties for the Australia series.
"What the ACC has taught me is to become a teacher," Ratnayake said. "I've been teaching the coaches. After all a coach is a teacher."
Ratnayake will be meeting the players, the three assistant coaches - Marvan Atapattu, the batting coach, Champaka Ramanayake, the fast bowling coach, and Ruwan Kalpage, the fielding coach - and team officials on July 18 to discuss strategies for the Australia series.
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