Sri Lanka cricket March 2, 2009

Atapattu in new role as batting coach

Marvan Atapattu will assist Canada till the end of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers © AFP

Marvan Atapattu, the former Sri Lanka captain and opening batsman, has been hired by Cricket Canada as their batting coach till April 19, the end of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers. This is the first time that Atapattu, 38, has taken up the coaching of a national side. His previous coaching stint was with the Fingara Cricket Academy, a coaching facility in Sri Lanka, for a couple of months.

"Cricket coaching is much easier than practising. I've always wanted to coach if I had a chance," Atapattu said. "I have two more years with ICL, but since ICL is not happening till about July I thought this is a great opportunity to keep myself occupied.

"Pubudu Dassanayake, who is Canada's head coach, called me and asked whether I could help him out with their batting," Atapattu said. "It was something which I loved doing and as I was free I obliged him."

Asked to what extent Atapattu's presence has improved his team's batting technique, Dassanayake said: "Marvan has been working with the team for three weeks and the results are already there for everyone to see. The little issues we had on the technical side have gone through and been corrected by Marvan. The first friendly game we played on Sunday against Nugegoda S&WC showed how much the batsmen have improved in the three weeks."

Questioned on the prospect of becoming Sri Lanka's batting coach one day, Atapattu said: "I don't want to project my thinking so far and so soon, but maybe not at the highest level, to be honest. With the top-level guys you cannot do a lot with their techniques and adjustments, but if you take on the second string or the academy levels, I can do the adjustments."

Since the tour to Australia in November 2007, after which he retired from international cricket, Atapattu has not played a single first-class match due to the ban imposed by Sri Lanka Cricket on ICL players. He has played one season of ICL and apart from that, a few Mercantile 'A' division matches for Fingara.

"My priorities are with the ICL for the next two years. If they go on playing the tournaments they had originally planned to hold, I probably will spend about 110 days a year playing cricket. That's enough for me at my age. But if that is not happening then I have my matches with Lashings in England and I will go where my services are needed."

Lashings are a private charity organisation playing 35-over games involving several international cricketers. They play around 30 matches during the season, mostly against club sides.

Atapattu accused the ICC of double standards in imposing a ban on ICL cricketers but allowing a similar tournament, the IPL, to run freely. "Both the ICL and IPL are helping cricketers raise their standards of living, so why are they supporting only the IPL and depriving cricketers from playing domestic and international cricket? Going by media reports, it is a grudge battle between two individuals and the whole cricket world is made to suffer. It is very unfortunate."

He was also critical of Sri Lanka playing too many matches against weak opposition. "We have lots of good players who are just being exposed to playing against weaker teams. We should be able to demand good teams to come here and provide us good opposition so that the real talent of our cricketers is exposed."

Atapattu said Sri Lanka's international cricket program was like a football scenario. "It's more like a penalty situation. If you score off a penalty, people will say 'You scored because you were awarded a penalty'. But on the other hand, if you fail to score they will say 'You cannot even score off a penalty'."