<
>

Graham Ford steps down as Sri Lanka coach

Coach Graham Ford and manager Asanka Gurusinha have a chat AFP

Graham Ford has stepped down as Sri Lanka coach, ending his second tenure with the side after 15 months. SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala said the decision had been arrived at mutually, "after careful consideration and deliberation".

Ford's relationship with SLC was understood to have been strained due to what he felt were unacceptable intrusions into team matters by the board. Ford had already left the island on leave, which would have ended early next week.

One of his grievances was the expanding powers of Asanka Gurusinha, who in February was appointed "cricket manager" - a position with a broadly defined range of duties, some of which Ford is understood to have felt infringed upon his freedom as a coach. In the time since his appointment, Gurusinha was also made a selector.

Though there were no reports of a personal rift between the two men, it is understood Ford was made to feel less than fully in control of his team during the recent Champions Trophy. Ford had since met with the board in Colombo but, before his departure from Sri Lanka, struck an optimistic tone about the team's prospects, saying: "The character that [the team] continues to show is really exciting. If we get a bit of experience among the younger players and we continue to keep that fight - that kind of spirit is really important if we're going to build and become a highly competitive team."

Ford's contract was slated until the end of the 2019 World Cup, a duration he insisted on when he took up the role last year because of the instability surrounding the job. Since 2011, Sri Lanka have had eight head coaches (including interim appointments) in nine separate stints - Ford having worked two shifts: from 2012 to 2014, then again from February last year to now.

SLC had hired Ford largely because of his excellent global reputation for managing young players - a skill seen as vital to Sri Lanka's progress following some high-profile player retirements. He oversaw one of the team's greatest ever Test series victories, against Australia last year, but many of the remaining assignments Sri Lanka have had under his watch have produced disappointing results.

Ford, however, has always insisted that it would be years before Sri Lanka becomes a top cricketing nation again, and saw his role as a long-term facilitator of the rebuilding process. The lack of short-term results, however, had prompted SLC to appoint of new coaching and management staff. This difference in expectation is what has partly led to the loss of faith.

Sumathipala acknowledged Ford's role in handling the team at a time when Sri Lanka cricket faced a "volatile and uncertain" period.

"We have to thank Fordy for his invaluable contribution to Sri Lanka Cricket," Sumathipala stated in the SLC press release. "He joined us at a time where we were quoted by the ICC as being on the 'verge of suspension' and at a time where things were volatile and uncertain, Ford had faith in us and has given us his fullest support.

"This was a decision arrived at mutually after careful consideration and deliberation and we are both confident of its propriety."