Colombo - New Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford acknowledged on Tuesday he faced a huge
rebuilding task after a string of retirements as he began his second
stint in charge of the islanders.
The South African said he was
honoured to return to Sri Lanka, whom he previously coached from 2012 to
2014, but urged fans to be patient after a recent slump saw the side
tumble down the Test rankings.
"For a coach, it is really a special group of lads to work with," Ford told reporters, a day after taking up his post.
the same time, I am very aware what a huge challenge it is. I think Sri
Lanka cricket finds itself in the very early stages of a very important
rebuilding stage. A lot of hard work needs to be done.
"Everyone, the players, the selectors and the board must have patience," added Ford, who has been handed a 45-month contract.
55-year-old, who quit last week as coach of English county side Surrey,
is taking the reins at one of the most troubled periods for Sri Lankan
cricket since it was awarded Test match status in 1981.
stars Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara both retired from
international cricket last year and other match-winners such as spinner
Rangana Herath and the opener Tillakaratne Dilshan are expected to
follow suit later this year.
"I don't want to discuss individual players in public," said Ford when asked who could fill the vacuum.
certainly learnt when I was here previously that there is an abundance
of talent, a lot of wonderfully talented young players within the
systems in Sri Lanka.
"But it is about identifying those who have
got the mental toughness to go on to become successful players and
consistent match winners at international level."
Sri Lanka's formidable home record took a hit last year with series defeats against the visiting Indian and Pakistan sides.
islanders then travelled to New Zealand where they were outplayed in
all forms of the game in a tour soured by allegations of drinking
parties and squabbling.
Sri Lanka are now down to seventh place in
the Test rankings although they do remain third in the table for the
best international Twenty20 teams, partly due to their triumph in the
last World T20 trophy in 2014.
Sumathipala, president of the national cricket board, said Sri Lanka
should benefit from Ford's spells with Surrey and with Kent a decade ago
in the build-up to the 2019 ODI World Cup in England.
knows English conditions very well and he will be able to prepare our
team to win the next World Cup in Britain," Sumathipala said.
first assignment will be in India next week when Sri Lanka play the
first of three T20s designed as a warm-up for their defence of the world
Sumathipala confirmed that wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh
Chandimal would skipper the side in India as regular T20 captain Lasith
Malinga recovers from an injury. Malinga is expected to return in time
for the Asia Cup starting in Bangladesh at the end of the month,
Ford, who is also a former coach of South Africa, ended his first spell in Sri Lanka in 2014 when his two-year contract expired.
He replaces Jerome Jayaratne, who had been interim coach since Marvan Atapattu quit last August.