Aravinda de Silva, the outgoing chairman of selectors for Sri Lanka, has said that Sri Lanka's failure to win the World Cup final is something he could not bear. "When we took over I remember telling Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara) that I don't want it to be mentioned that the 1996 team was the only one who won a World Cup," de Silva, a member of the 1996 World Cup winning Sri Lanka side said. "It's time we changed that.
"This was the best opportunity we had to go out there and give 200% and try and change it. To have not succeeded is definitely a very big disappointment for me. But at the same time the players gave 200% and they were committed. "
Sri Lanka were beaten by India in the World Cup final in Mumbai on April 2. Lasith Malinga reduced India to 31 for 2 in their chase of 275 before the Indian middle order blunted the Sri Lankan attack to take the title by a comfortable six-wicket margin. Even Muttiah Muralitharan, in his final international game, went wicketless in his eight overs that cost 39 runs. There were questions raised about whether Muralitharan, who had been battling various niggles, should have been risked for the final, but de Silva said he is willing to take responsibility for that decision.
"Murali some would say was not 100% fit but we are prepared to take the blame because I was one guy who told Murali that even on one leg he should play because he would still be a better bowler. That responsibility we were ready to take. That's the sort of commitment a senior player like Murali has given to the cause."
de Silva said a new set of selectors was needed to take Sri Lankan cricket forward and focus on the 2015 World Cup. "A lot of changes need to be made; the correct decisions need to be taken both long-term and short-term. We have only two more weeks before our term expires so us making such decisions is not going to be of any consequence. We took an overall decision thinking of the future.
The emphasis going forward should be on fast bowlers, de Silva said, as the next World Cup was in Australia and New Zealand where the pitches are more favourable for seamers. "[Also] the opening batsmen should not be too flashy but ones who can consolidate, being technically more solid because on those wickets the new ball assists the fast bowlers.
"It's not the current openers, but we must look for more solid openers for Australia and New Zealand. Changes have to be made and tough decisions taken, therefore the next chairman of selectors must be strong to implement them."
de Silva said that he would have to think hard about continuing as a national selector if he is asked again. "When I took over this job I said I would take it only on one ground that I won't be able to travel with the team when they are on tour but spend time as much as possible at home and be with them. Over the last eight months, except for the final against India, I didn't go on any of the tours mainly because for that reason.
"Spending two hours with my family makes me happier than sitting through and arguing about teams for seven hours. But that commitment was an obligation on my part for Sri Lanka cricket for all that it has given me in the past. At the same time the other three selectors have done the same and I appreciate very much the amount of work they have put in. We were able to do a clean job and be very transparent with whatever we did for that reason I am very happy. There were no interferences and we were able to do a job with a clear conscience."
The other members of the selection committee were Ranjith Fernando, Amal Silva and Shabbir Asgerally. Fernando said that the committee had endeavoured to be transparent and approachable by the players. "Our belief is that every young boy in this country wants to play for Sri Lanka and if we don't open the doors for them no one else will," Fernando said. "So we at all times told them what they had to do and where they have failed.
"That sort of transparency needs a lot of time. I don't think we can afford that time in that fashion so easily. Those are the things that we have to consider if the job has to be done long term."
Fernando said that de Silva probably had the best cricketing brain in the country. "I have been his mentor when he was a young kid and I am proud to serve under him. Sri Lanka cricket needs to utilise his talents in some form in the future even if it is not of a selector.
"His knowledge of every young cricketer at Under-19 level is virtually at the back of his brain at any given moment. That is the type of cricketing guy we need to take cricket forward. There are others as well but I am just talking about one."