Marvan Atapattu appointed Sri Lanka head coach
Marvan Atapattu has been named Sri Lanka's interim head coach, following the resignation of Paul Farbrace earlier this week. Ruwan Kalpage, Sri Lanka's fielding coach and former offspinner, has been appointed his assistant. The appointments were for Sri Lanka's upcoming tour of the Ireland and England as well as the home series against South Africa to follow, SLC confirmed on Friday.
Atapattu had applied for the head coach position when Graham Ford had announced he would vacate the job, and had progressed to the final round of interviews in November, before Farbrace was appointed. Atapattu has been Sri Lanka's batting coach since for three years, and had been assistant coach since March 2013.
He has earned a reputation for his technical acumen - as a coach, as he had been as a player - but he was deemed unready for head coach role late last year. Both Farbrace and Ford, however, have publicly lauded his work ethic.
The appointments had been made on the recommendations of a three-man coach selection committee, which consists of chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya, head of coaching Jerome Jayaratne, and cricket committee chairman Ranjit Fernando. In the days following Farbrace's departure Jayasuriya had issued strong signals Atapattu would be named interim coach, as the fast-approaching tour did not allow SLC enough time to make a more permanent appointment.
"We should look to give responsibility to Marvan, because he's been around for a few years," Jayasuriya had said. "The bowling and fielding coaches will also have to take a lot of responsibility."
Among the most difficult aspects of Atapattu's job will be devising an effective strategy against an opponent who now possesses intimate knowledge of Sri Lanka's strengths, weaknesses and team dynamics, thanks to Farbrace's appointment as England assistant coach. Sri Lanka have not won a Test in England since 2006, but this tour represents a good opportunity to improve that record, while England themselves seek to rebuild after a disastrous winter.
"Farbrace knows inside out about Sri Lanka's cricketers, and that's the biggest challenge for us," Jayasuriya said. "He knows our batsmen and bowlers from top to bottom, and what we have been discussing in the last four or five months. I hope Marvan, Ruwan, the bowling coach can do a lot of work with the senior cricketers and come out of this situation."
The ODIs in the tour are also a vital step en route to the 2015 World Cup, as Sri Lanka do not play outside Asia for six months, following that series. The team leaves the country on May 2, to play two ODIs in Dublin, before moving on to three practice matches in England.
Sri Lanka play four Tests, ten ODIs and a T20 international in their two upcoming series. The trip to England is the most important away tour in the year, before their most high-profile home-assignment, against the top-ranked Test team, begins in July.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando