Tom Moody chose to look at the big picture and take a decision that will protect his family and enhance his career
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It appeared Sri Lanka's cricket officials could staved off the decision; armed with extra cash after the World Cup, they appeared confident of securing their coach for a fresh contract. Even some of the players thought and hoped he would stay. But Tom Moody, who will step down as Sri Lanka coach after Tuesday's match against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi, had clearly made up his mind weeks before and the rationale was entirely in keeping with his style of decision-making while with Sri Lanka: he looked at the big picture, weighed the pros and cons and took a long-term, balanced decision that will protect his family and enhance his career.
To some, trading the international arena for state cricket
will appear a backward step but the reality is that it will polish his
skills further and spare him from the dangers of spending 75%
of his time in sterile international hotels, thousands of miles away
from his wife and children.
Staying in Sri Lanka would have ensured him greater international
exposure. It could also have brought further successes with a team that
now has strong foundations. However, the end of the World Cup is increasingly
becoming the time for coaches to start afresh and staying might
have locked him out of plum positions for up to four years.
Coaching Sri Lanka also carries certain risks that would have been beyond Moody's
control - just ask Dav Whatmore and John Dyson, both of whom were
handicapped at times by administrative mismanagement. Moody, though, was
fortunate to work during a time of unusual stability within
the cricket board and the environment was supportive of his efforts. Sadly, however, such
stability is unlikely to last indefinitely and, when the in-fighting and
political meddling does resume, coaching will become much harder.
Moody could have asked his price of Sri Lanka Cricket and they would
have paid. The board is believed to have been willing to cough up around
US $300,000 plus housing and a car - far, far more than was ever paid to
Dav Whatmore or John Dyson, his immediate predecessors. India, too, with
their deeper pockets, would have been a financially attractive job. Aged just 41, though, and having coached Sri Lanka so successfully, Moody knows that
he can walk back into international cricket when he wants. His stint
with Western Australia will provide the ideal launching pad for a role
with Cricket Australia in the nor-so-distant future. The smart money is
on him coaching Australia after Tim Nielsen. Chaminda Vaas certainly
believes so: "One day he will go on to coach Australia and I wish him
all the very best", he told The Island recently.
The loss of Trevor Penney, Moody's assistant coach, also caught the board by
surprise. They would have hoped that he'd have stayed to ensure continuing focus on fielding. The cricket board are now left with a tricky search to find replacements of similar calibre. Fortunately, Penney will stay for the Bangladesh tour in
July, giving Sri Lanka several months to complete their recruitment.
Replacing Moody will not be easy. His overall statistics are good
without being exceptional - 37 wins in 70 ODIs at a respectable 56% win
ratio, just above Sri Lanka's career figure of 48%; and 10
Test wins in 18 Tests - but this hides the progress of the team during
the past two years. The fact is that the team is in far better shape
than it was back in mid-2005. There are several factors for this but
Moody has certainly played a major part. Mahela Jayawardene put it emphatically: "There is no doubt in my mind that he is one of the best
coaches in the world right now. It was an emotional moment when he told
us he was leaving, but the boys respect his decision."
The best thing that I saw in him was that he insisted on us playing our Sri Lankan brand of cricket. He reminded us not to imitate any other team and encouraged players to believe in their talents. His role was massive in developing the team
Lasith Malinga on Moody
Players talk of him "pushing them out of their comfort zones" as he
waged a war against complacency, forcing all players to analyse ways of
improving their performance. "Tom challenged every individual," said
Jayawardene. "You could not stay in the same place. Every training
session, every team talk mattered. We all learned, not just the
youngsters but the senior guys too. He certainly didn't allow me to
coast and helped me become a better and more consistent player. He
pushed us all out of our comfort zones and in the process made us much
tougher mentally as individuals and as a team."
His influence on the younger players, instilling self-belief and helping
them grow, was obviously immense. The likes of Lasith Malinga, Upul
Tharanga, Chamara Silva and Farveez Maharoof all flourished under his
guidance. Were it not for his vision, for example, Silva might have
never returned to international cricket. Moody saw him during a training
match and was immediately impressed. Within months he'd persuaded the
selectors to re-introduce him. He then stuck by him after a pair in his
maiden Test match in New Zealand last year and was rewarded thereafter
with a flood of runs.
Lasith Malinga was transformed from a strike bowler prone to
inconsistency and waywardness to one of the most potent pace bowlers in
the world during Moody's two-year term. Unsurprisingly, Malinga also
paid tribute to Moody, thanking him for letting Sri Lanka be Sri Lanka:
"The best thing that I saw in him was that he insisted on us playing our
Sri Lankan brand of cricket. He reminded us not to imitate any other
team and encouraged players to believe in their talents. His role was
massive in developing the team," Malinga told The Island.
Moody's success was achieved through the introduction of a new
performance-based culture that encouraged self-improvement. He was
organised and clear with his communication, insightful in
his thinking and able to motivate the team. And there was one
characteristic that will be particularly hard to replace: his
willingness to stand up to senior players when they stepped out of line.
The senior hierarchy are not troublemakers, but their high profile makes
them powerful and, like all players, they sometimes need to be
confronted. His management of Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan
and Chaminda Vaas was exceptional. There were no screaming tantrums or
chair-throwing theatrics, he was strong in his own careful, methodical,
The search for Sri Lanka's next head coach is unlikely to include, in the long run,
homegrown candidates. There are quality coaches now with proper training
and international experience, including the likes of Rumesh Ratnayake
and, more recently Chandrika Hathurasingha, the new A team coach, but the
unfortunate reality is that the man management of the national team will
be easier for an overseas coach with no political or personal
A key point in Moody's success is his handling of senior players. There were no screaming tantrums or chair-throwing theatrics, he was strong in his own careful, methodical, rational manner
Moody has already given the board some potential names and the senior
players may also throw more into the hat. However, finding a coach
with the right blend of coaching and life skills will be very hard.
Aside from the standard coaching skills of organisation, technical
analysis, man-management and talent-spotting, he'll need to be sensitive
to Sri Lankan culture, willing to live overseas, immune to the
irrational nature of some media criticism and strong enough to hold his
ground with senior players and, at times, the cricket board and
selectors. International playing experience will be helpful, but not
The big names normally bandied about - John Buchanan (now entering the commercial world), Greg Chappell, Duncan Fletcher, Dav Whatmore - are unlikely to be considered.
Instead, the focus might be on some of the lesser known but
well-respected assistant and specialist coaches currently working in
Australia and county cricket in England. Graham Ford, the former South
Africa coach who was approached by Sri Lanka after Dav Whatmore, is also
respected by Sri Lanka's cricketers.
Whoever does sign up, though, will do well to carefully study Moody's tenure.
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent