Hathurusingha still has fire in his belly

Chandika Hathurusingha is trying to make amends for what he has lost in the course of a cricketing career that had promised so much but eventually fell much short of it. In a significant move, on Friday the former Sri Lanka opening batsman undertook a three-year contract with Sri Lanka Cricket as coach of the Sri Lanka A team.

"I had my ups and downs as an international cricketer. I believe that I missed out on a lot as a player due to circumstances which I do not want to relate here. I feel the time is right now for me to catch up on those lost years. That's why I accepted this job," said 37-year-old Hathurusingha who took over the A coach mantle from Stan Nell.

"Personally it gives me a chance to be with my family and more satisfying is that I am able to give back something in return to the game which I always enjoyed playing," he said.

Hathurusingha who played for his country from 1991-1999 said that he arrived on the scene probably at the wrong time. It was under controversial circumstances that Hathurusingha was flown in to replace injured opener Dhammika Ranatunga, the elder brother of Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga on the tour of New Zealand in 1991. "As a result I suffered throughout my career."

The right-hander grabbed his chance with both hands to score 23, 81, 13 and 74 to cement a place in the national Test side as an opener. Despite this fine beginning Hathurusingha was not assured a permanent place in the Test team which explains just 26 Tests over a period of eight years.

The worst humiliation Hathurusingha suffered in his career was to be a member of the 1999 World Cup team in England and not play in a single game. Sri Lanka, the defending champions fared badly and were ousted from the Super Sixes stage of the tournament, securing wins only against Zimbabwe (who made it to the next round) and Kenya.

When Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996, Hathurusingha was not part of the winning squad despite having a highly successful series in Pakistan in 1995-96 where he finished as the leading run-getter for his team with 291 runs (avg. 48.50), and helping his country become only the third team in history to come from behind and win a Test series after losing the first Test.

Even at school Hathurusingha had to fight for his place in the team despite some outstanding batting performances. He won selection to the Sri Lanka Under-19 team to tour England in 1986 after being nominated by Tamil Union and not by his school Ananda College who thought he was not good enough to be in their first eleven side and confined him to their second eleven.

Unlike most cricketers during his era, Hathurusingha was not gifted and had to work very hard for his success. "I had to concentrate more on improving my technique, on psychology and on so many other aspects of cricket to be competitive," said Hathurusingha. "I have certain principles which I adhered to make a success in life. It did not make me too popular with certain individuals.

"As coach I will apply the same principles but make sure the players under me don't make the same mistakes that I made. What I expect from them is honesty. We need to work together as a team. That is a big factor."

Last December, Hathurusingha announced his retirement from first-class cricket ending an 18-year career to concentrate on coaching. He scored 10,861 runs and took 425 wickets from 207 matches.

As player-cum-coach he already had success with Moors SC, Tamil Union and Janashakthi SC before becoming the national coach of United Arab Emirates. He is recognised as one of the most highly qualified coaches in the country having attained ECB Level 3 coaching status, one of the most advanced coaching qualifications in the world, as well as a Level II qualification with Cricket Australia.

Hathurusingha had a successful stint with UAE helping them to qualify for the next Asia Cup tournament (whenever it is held) and for the ICC World Cup qualifying tournament in 2009. UAE have also qualified to play in the ICC division I world league tournament for associate member countries where success would put them in line to become a full member of the world body.

After so much success, Hathurusingha said he quit to take on the Sri Lankan job because opportunities in UAE were ''limited''.