Former USA head coach Pubudu Dassanayake has said his position as head coach became untenable after his decision-making authority was stripped back with the introduction of Kiran More as USA director of cricket at a USA T20 World Cup Qualifying squad selection camp last month in Los Angeles..
"It's basically everything. We can say it one word: freedom, to work," Dassanayake told ESPNcricinfo when asked why he had chosen to resign immediately on Friday rather than staying on until the end of his contract in December. "It's been cooking for awhile. Resigning is mainly a personal decision and the reason for it is in the best interests of the national team.
"The more I stay at the moment with the new staff coming in, when they have different ideas and I have a different idea, it's hurting the team. I thought me going out, the new staff will have the freedom to move forward. I hope they'll do well and wish them well."
Dassanayake has been at the top of the totem pole in US cricket since September 2016 when he came on board as USA head coach, overseeing both the men's and Under-19 teams at the time. As such, he had a commanding presence in squad selection and the overall direction of the national team program, helping guide USA from World Cricket League Division Four in Los Angeles in November 2016 to finally achieving ODI status earlier this year at WCL Division Two in Namibia.
After achieving such a historic success, Dassanayake says he was blindsided when he showed up to June's USA national-team camp and was introduced by Atul Rai, a USA Cricket board member and head of the cricket committee for USA Cricket, to More and Kieran Powell. Dassanayake was told by Rai that he would be reporting to More as director of cricket. Prior to that, Dassanayake had mainly worked with USA project manager Eric Parthen and officer Wade Edwards on all operational decisions while selection was done with a selection panel headed by Ricardo Powell. Instead, final selection decisions will now go through More.
"I was caught a bit off guard," Dassanayake said. "It's hard for me to comment about them at the moment because I was outside the decision-making process in the last few weeks in the men's team. So I don't know how they did it. But the vision that I have and the vision that they have is two totally different roads. They can be successful. I'm not saying their visions are bad. They are good visions.
"But for me, Associate cricket is different from the Full Member setup and I would like to work in an environment where trust and freedom has to be there. We have lost a bit of that part basically."
Following the selection camp in Los Angeles, Dassanayake says he had a conference call in the first week of July with More, ICC high performance manager Richard Done and ICC COO Iain Higgins, who is due to be announced as USA Cricket chief executive at the conclusion of the World Cup. But the conference call ended in a stalemate.
Dassanayake then flew with Edwards to the UK last week to have an in-person meeting with Higgins, who made one final effort to convince him to stay on as head coach. But Dassanayake says that when he left London on Thursday he had informed Higgins of his decision to step down.
"I respect whatever decisions taken by the board," Dassanayake said. "If I have to talk about myself, the success that we had in the last two and a half years is that some things we had done in a certain way to suit these tournaments to building up this team, we made it, we break it, we made it.
"We did lots of experiments and shook things up a lot to get the right set up. All these things really helped and that freedom that I had was the main success. Once I see that I don't have that freedom, it's good for the game for USA Cricket that whoever is doing it needs to have that freedom to move forward. So that's why I just want to move away from that and let the other group move forward."
Dassanayake also said that the recent months since USA obtained ODI status were reminiscent of his experiences while coaching Canada and Nepal. Once USA Cricket signed a licensing deal with American Cricket Enterprises, he foresaw changes coming that could possibly force him to reevaluate his position going forward.
"In all three countries I have worked, as soon as you get ODI status or T20I status… when the teams are in the tough time there are not too many people around but when teams get to a certain level, so many want to get into it," Dassanayake said. "I anticipated something is coming up, but didn't anticipate it to come this early.
"In Associate cricket sometimes, there is two different things. If you get into an already-ODI-status country, it's a different game that you need to do. But if you enter into a low-ranked team, as soon as they come into that place, it's a different ball game. I don't blame anyone, but that's how life goes. The same thing happened in all three nations that I had."
The outgoing coach hopes people will remember him for the results he helped the nation achieve on the field rather than the sudden nature of his departure.
"That was the biggest challenge that I had, compared to earlier jobs," Dassanayake said. "We didn't have a team when I joined, basically. There were so many talented, good players. But I knew it was not easy to win with this team. At Division Four, we got through purely because of the talent. When you are at Division Four and Five, you can get through with talent. But when it comes to Three and Two, the levels have gone so high, you need everything in the right place.
"I'm proud that I was able to get everyone in the right direction. They all played together and played for each other, a strong team under one flag. I never thought that I can gel the group that we had into such a close unit. You know some of the issues that we had with different players. In Namibia, they were one unit. People who never thought that we could do it was so surprised to see that unit."