‘No we can never replace Murali. But cricket goes on and we had Rangana Herath replacing him as a spinner’
He has been roped in to arrest the downslide in Sri Lankan cricket and Asanka Gurusinha's assessment of the fall is quite simple -- not grooming anyone to fill in Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara's shoes.
“The main reason why the rebuilding phase is taking long is because there was never an emphasis on grooming new talent once Kumar and Mahela were reaching the end of their careers. We simply didn't groom anyone to replace the duo," Gurusinha, who played 41 Tests and 147 ODIs, said.
One of Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup heroes, Gurusinha had migrated to Australia nearly two decades ago but has now responded to his former colleague Aravinda de Silva's call for carrying out a revamp in their structure in capacity of Cricket Manager.
“Since I have worked 20 years in Australia (Grade cricket coaching), I believe in that system and I am not going to change according to Sri Lankan system. With me, you see what you get," he said.
"I believe in speaking straight and that's been my trait since playing days. I have been direct with SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala and chairman of selectors Sanath Jayasuriya that I will do it my way.
"I want to be straight with my players and vice versa. Of course, the players can question me and I want them to challenge my methods. I don't want them to simply nod their heads and say, yes you are right. At least Angelo at times challenges me and I feel like "waoh" it's great," Gurusinha has not changed one bit from his playing days.
Gurusinha has a contract of three years after which he plans to return to his base in Melbourne. The key reason for taking up the job is to give youngsters a sense of direction.
"When Mahela, Kumar and Dilshan were there, they didn't need us as there was inhouse experience to guide them. We had a really good team. But now it is an inexperienced team and when Aravinda de Silva called me and asked why don't I help the Sri Lankan team with a roadmap, I agreed. I want to take them next level," he said.
But Gurusinha does admit that talented players like Dinesh Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedara should have stepped up a bit more.
He reckons that it might be temperament where a Virat Kohli or a Rohit Sharma scores over Chandimal and Kapugedara.
"I think that could be one of the reasons. Kohli's knowledge of match situation is one of the reasons that they are so successful in the shorter version. They know when to play those maiden overs and then build up from thereon."
"It's a difficult question. I believe a lot of changes has also not helped. I believe we had five captains in last 12 months primarily due to injuries.
“It's also very difficult for a coach to build a team and get consistent result with so many injuries. My main goal is to have a stable team in next 12 months with hopefully the captain (Angelo Mathews) playing all the games," he said.
Gurusinha felt Mathews' injury breakdowns have not helped matters either.
"Angelo's injuries have not helped Sri Lankan cricket either. Last year, he played only 40 percent of Sri Lanka's international assignment.
"It's important to have Angelo as he needs to help these youngsters focus on winning matches from tough situations. Consistency comes when one knows how to win tough games. That's my main goal," Gurusinha said.
With Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Dilshan gone, the former left-hander now is also thinking how to work on Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath's possible successors.
“You can't replace legends and I am not even trying to do that. Can we have Murali's (Muttiah Muralitharan) replacement? No we can never replace Murali. But cricket goes on and we had Rangana Herath replacing him as a spinner.
"He is very under-rated but he is nearly 40. Lasith might not play too long in ODI. We may have to try out two to three players initially and try them out for 8-10 months," he said.
Gurusinha feels the big challenge for the Lankan team is the upcoming series where they would host India in August.
"India is a big test. I want to throw in some young guys but I need to understand I can't ruin their career as well. I have to be very careful. May be test some of them during the Zimbabwe series prior to India series," he concluded.