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July 29, 2007
Trevor Penney has left Sri Lanka for now but has plans to come back sometime in the future. Two months after Tom Moody quit as coach, Zimbabwean-born Penney, who was brought in by Moody as assistant coach in 2005, is following him to play a similar role as assistant with Australian state side Western Australia.
"I am looking forward to going and getting another experience in Australia with different type of coaching and different players," Penney said. "Then certainly down the track I would love to get back into international cricket with Sri Lanka especially. That's certainly something on my mind," said 39-year-old Penney who retired from first-class cricket at the end of 2005 to join his former county team-mate Moody.
What has drawn Penney, a former Warwickshire player for 17 years, towards Sri Lanka is the general improvement the national team has made under him and Moody and the number of friends he has made in that time.
"They are a talented bunch of cricketers and Sri Lanka is a great place, much better than I expected it was going to be. There were a lot of victories but the most important thing to me was the improvement of the players, seeing the middle- to late-order batting well in one-day cricket. When I first came they weren't doing well. That's a real plus for me and the improvement in the fielding standards."
Paying tribute to both Moody and Penney, Mahela Jayawardene said: "The things that Tom and Trevor brought into the game were brilliant. We saw different aspects where we could improve on, especially in the fielding and in areas where we could definitely improve like the middle- and lower-order batting where we worked with sweeps, reverse-sweeps, the strong areas they could hit. Because of them, all that has been part of our improvement."
They are a talented bunch of cricketers and Sri Lanka is a great place, much better than I expected than it was going to be. There were a lot of victories but the most important thing to me was the improvement on players, seeing the middle- to late-order batting well in one-day cricket.
Penney said that he was really moved by the way the team responded when he took over from Moody for the series against Bangladesh. "It could have been the assistant coach taking over and the guys could have not responded, but they responded just like they have in the last two years. I am really pleased about that. It means a lot to me. It means the guys respected me and I've come in and done exactly what they have been doing.
"I just carried on what we were doing for the Bangladesh series. Up to the World Cup the guys have got to this work ethic and good team spirit. Working with them has been an absolute pleasure. The guys know what they've got to do and you just got to maintain their high standards and make sure practice is competitive. They love that. I just maintained that and kept it going," he said. Needless to say Sri Lanka overpowered Bangladesh with 3-0 sweeps in the Tests and the one-day internationals.
But more than the victories, Sri Lanka benefited immensely from the coaching of Moody and Penney in the individual development of the players. A good example was how fast bowler Chaminda Vaas was transformed into an allrounder by improving on his batting.
"Since I came here I've said to Vaas I couldn't believe how he had wasted his Test career as a batsman. He could have batted at six really. But in those old days when you first started, the bowlers never got a bat in the nets. Luckily we had a coach and an assistant coach who could spend time with Vaasy and just gave him the belief that he is a fantastic player. I didn't have to do too much technically I just gave him the belief.
"Tom and I worked with every individual as much as anyone. Certainly in fielding there are a number of players particularly [Tillakaratne] Dilshan. I really enjoyed working with Sanath [Jayasuriya], giving him belief, Mahela, Sanga [ Kumar Sangakkara] - it has been a treat to coach these guys. If you do want to give them another shot or say 'let's expand your game' they could do it like that because they've got the talent," Penney said.
Sri Lanka were fortunate that Moody and Penney blended perfectly. "Tom brought this strict discipline, like you've got to pass fitness tests etc. That's worked really well. It's come through the age groups. There's so much talent coming through Sri Lanka. At the moment the Under-19s, the academy, and the A squad, all have got good coaches now. You can see their rewards."
Also departing from the Sri Lanka team is CJ Clarke, the trainer. "We never had long term injuries," Jayawardene said. "All our main guys played together for a long period of time due to the excellent support we received from the back-room staff."
Moody, Penney, and Clarke are leaving behind a legacy which their successors will have to live up to if Sri Lanka are to continue with their climb to be the top cricketing nation.