Impossible is possible in T20 cricket - Murali!!


At a time when no one seems to give Sri Lanka a chance to go the distance in the ICC T20 World Cup, spin legend Muttiah Muralidaran does not want to rule Sri Lanka completely out of contention. In hindsight, he knows it’s a tough ask from a team that has less talent than the one he represented when Sri Lanka laid their hands on the Cricket World Cup in 1996.

“You may think it’s impossible, but impossible things have been achieved in cricket,” said the world’s leading spinner in the longer format, referring to the victories they notched back in the day. “In T20 cricket, any team can win,” he said while interacting with the local media attending the global event. “You don’t know which team will win. Like when we won in 1996, we never thought we would win. I played in that tournament and we thought we would lose most games. We were not sure of reaching the finals. But we did not lose a game on our way to winning the title. I am not saying that we have a talented team like that (1996) here, but impossible things have been achieved in world cricket.”

Muralidaran, a brand ambassador of the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the T20 World Cup, believes that with Mahela Jayawardena back in the Sri Lanka dressing room as consultant, Sri Lanka will make it three wins in a row to qualify for the main draw of the global showpiece.

Sri Lanka has been through a long transition period ever since Jayawardena and fellow teammates Kumar Sangakkara and TM Dilshan retired several years ago. There’s been little signs of recovery. So drastic changes were made in the national team with several seniors shown the door in the lead up to the World Cup. Muralidaran is part of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) headed by Aravinda de Silva that makes all cricket-related decisions.

“The presence of Mahela is a huge bonus,” said the champion spinner. “These boys for the last six or seven years have had little guidance. I know Mahela’s guidance has been for a very short period. But in T20 cricket, he is very experienced. He is winning competitions everywhere in the world. He knows how this format needs to be played and it’s great to see him sharing his experience with the boys.”

“Players can learn,” he stressed. “That will allow them to improve; how to calm yourself down and to stay cool. It is important we qualify. I have the confidence we will qualify. Netherlands is not a great side. Only Ireland is a bit tough, but I am confident we can beat all three and go to the next round.”

Sri Lanka comfortably won their first game against Namibia and will play Ireland today in Abu Dhabi, before heading to Sharjah for their last group game against Netherlands on Friday.

Jayawardena has no interest in taking over a full-time position with the national team, given his commitment to franchise cricket, but is open to short consultancy work. He was recently appointed consultant coach of the U-19 team as Sri Lanka prepare for the U-19 World Cup next year.

“Our aim is to win the Under-19 World Cup. Mahela will be consulting. He will help coaching staff and the players,” he said.

With Mickey Arthur and rest of the support staff nearing the business end of their stint with Sri Lanka cricket, there’s a greater chance of all local coaching staff headed by Roshan Mahanama taking over.

Muralidaran said, for many reasons, it’s best to have locals doing the job like in India.

“My thought is that,” he said, referring to Mahanama. “The players lacked discipline and Roshan who has been a very disciplined person will help to get over it.  If Roshan becomes coach for one or two years, the whole mindset will change. That will help Sri Lanka cricket. It’s my opinion. Roshan has to agree.”
“Then, I would want mostly our national coaches to handle things,” he reiterated. “There are vast language barriers with foreigners. When Arjuna was captain, he built a team for a foreigner to take it further. This team is young, so you need one of our own. That’s why India looked at one of their own coaches. They have had Ravi Shastri and now Rahul. Roshan for us is the start. In future we have to give our cricketers a chance.”
Commenting on the changes the Technical Advisory Committee has brought in, Muralidaran says its main aim is to put the right structures in place for cricket to prosper.

“We want to restructure domestic cricket and improve the quality of cricket in our country,” he said. “Improve the facilities and ensure that the gap between first class cricket and international cricket is not much. We will have a franchise tournament and the experience players get playing alongside foreign players are going to be good for our cricket.”

Sri Lanka’s domestic structure will focus on the setting up of a strong provincial cricket system that will have only the cream of domestic cricketers playing. “The provinces will be the main format for us to select for international cricket,” he explained.(Champika Fernando)

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