Kaluwitharana stresses discipline for SL A players
Sri Lanka A won the three-match one-day series against Pakistan A 2-1 but their primary objective to provide a steady flow of players to the senior team remains a concern.
"Winning is the key for me in any form of game but at the same time if we can produce a few players to the national side then my role as coach is fulfilled," Romesh Kaluwitharana, Sri Lanka A's coach for the past five years, said. "The major factor I see is discipline."
"If players want to play a big role they will have to work really hard at their game. We have enough talent and with our little resources we have produced world-class players," Kaluwitharana, who was part of Sri Lanka's World Cup winning squad in 1996, said. "We don't have facilities like other countries but with the little we have, we have won a World Cup, a T20 World Cup and become two-time runner-up. But talent alone is not enough to make you a top-level professional cricketer.
"When we played we didn't have a gym, we didn't have coaches in every department. Today you have physios, trainers, masseurs, computer analysts, all what the players need. What they don't have is the drive, the energy to give 100 % to the game that is what is lacking.
"Distractions are everywhere. Other countries have more distractions than in Sri Lanka but the players have the discipline not to get attracted to things which will prove a setback to their cricket. It's the discipline that we don't have," Kaluwitharana pointed out. "What we do is we tell the players morning, noon and night. You can take the horse to the water but you can't make it drink. That is very sad but it's happening not only now it happened earlier also.
"For an A-team player to go straight into the national side is not a good thing," Kaluwitharana said. "If a new player comes to the Sri Lanka A team and performs well and shows a lot of promise, only performance will not take him straightaway into the national side, he has to be geared in other aspects also.
"We need to build a player, adjusting to conditions, how he handles pressure, and how he can continue his consistency. Some players come and go, that should not happen. I believe in players getting more experience at A-level. These days what we are looking at is the fitness. In domestic cricket they are only worried about the batting and bowling part because they want to win tournaments. It's understandable for a club coach to try and win as many tournaments as possible but at the end of the day if they have not produced any players good enough to play for the country they have not done their part.
"We all know that our domestic cricket is not all that competitive and that there is a big gap between domestic and international cricket. So playing A-team cricket is essential for a player to bridge that gap."
Kaluwitharana said the more time a player spends with the A-team the more comfortable he will be if he makes the national side. "Some players mature very fast, for example a cricketer like Angelo Mathews matured very fast for a youngster and he was mature enough to captain when he was really young.
"Some players take a long time to mature. They don't know how to manage their innings, their lives. It's all about discipline, not excelling only with bat and ball. That's why it's important for an A-team player to show consistency and discipline so that he becomes a complete product - high in confidence to play in front of big crowds under the cameras, in different conditions, and be able to bat at any position.
Kaluwitharana said at A-level mental coaching was required more than technical guidance. "What we do is to fine tune the talent they have so they can be successful cricketers in the national team. It's more work on the mind than anything else, giving them confidence and how to cope with pressure etc.
Kaluwitharana said the ideal calendar for the A-team would be four tours annually, two outbound and two inbound. "The more they play outside the better for them. The ideal situation is for an A-team series to take place ahead of a senior tour, that's how other countries are doing it. If that happens, it will provide the perfect platform."
Sri Lanka Cricket has arranged two more series for the A side this year. South Africa A are due to visit in July and Sri Lanka A will tour New Zealand in October.