For much of their cricketing history, Sri Lanka have been a force to be reckoned with. Towering exploits from legendary names trip easily off the tongue, with the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath etching their names into both the island’s and the world’s cricket history.
The Australian, Tom Moody, has already played a part in that illustrious history. During his tenure as head coach between 2005 and 2007, his Sri Lankan charges recorded 13 Test wins and reached the World Cup Final. Compare that to more recent history where, since 2019, Sri Lanka have won just four Tests from 15.
Now, as Sri Lanka plan to recover those glories, Moody has returned, with the stated aim of elevating the Sri Lankan team to the top of the ICC rankings within his tenure as director of the wordy Sri Lanka Cricket Institutes Training Division. Mickey Arthur took on the role of Sri Lankan coach in February 2020 and this role is clearly about providing the tools and infrastructure to give the popular South African the best chance for success.
With the nation in a state of cricket transition, it’s a big job, but clearly Moody, known as Long Tom in his playing days due to his 6ft 6in height, feels he is up to the challenge.
Speaking at his inaugural media briefing he boldly stated: “In the process, we can really move up the rankings in all sectors. It needs to focus not only on individuals or players, but also on infrastructure
“It will take some time to make some significant changes. But I am well prepared to meet the needs of the cricket committee. If we are able to get the structure right through this whole process, we will be back to where we were.”
Moody certainly comes with an impressive CV and a variety of experience from over the world. He has served in the IPL, the Big Bash, the CPL, and the PSL as well as his spell with Worcestershire. He pulled no punches in assessing the situation he sees before him. “One thing that becomes very clear from having done a lot of research and having had a lot of discussions with people who understand the first-class and domestic game here, is that it’s not a system that supports excellence.
“That’s something that’s very much a priority in regards to our rebuild. Once you provide a system that provides excellence, you allow talent – which this country is not short of – to thrive. There is an enormous gulf between the first-class structure and what’s on offer in the international stage when you have 26 teams competing.”
Moody believes adamantly that the absence of a competitive first-class structure is the reason why Sri Lanka has struggled to come out swiftly from their transition phase. “My observation from afar on Sri Lankan cricket is that, like any other country when a side loses some of the game’s greatest players in a short window, it’s very hard to recover from,” he said. “Australia had a very similar situation and they struggled to recover.”
Aravinda de Silva, head of the Cricket Technical Advisory Committee, said that he was confident that with the appointment of Moody, Sri Lanka would return to past glories
“Honestly, we know that our national team is going through a very difficult period,” he said. “But we are strategically making every effort to get this right. Once that is done, successful results will be achieved.
“Our committee, with Moody, is working closely with Sri Lanka Cricket. We will focus on every aspect of the game, especially with the local cricket structure and discuss how to reform it.
“There is a focus on paving the way for school cricket, the contracts of current players, the staffing of support staff and coaches, as well as the development of women’s cricket.
One battle for Moody, is likely to be the streamlining of the nation’s club structure, with former and present luminaries calling for a complete revamp to improve the standard of the game.
De Silva acknowledged: “We need to have a couple of levels above the club structure so that they can get that exposure before graduating to international cricket. We are looking at a pathway all the way from school cricket to international cricket and this will not only produce cricketers but the coaches, officials, curators, match referees and umpires. If we can do that, everything else will be very, very easy.”
Sri Lanka’s greatest right-handed batsman stressed that a main responsibility was to reduce the reliance on global imports. “Within three years of Moody working here we need to grow enough to take responsibility for these positions.”
Perhaps, to the surprise of many, Sri Lanka Cricket has been highly receptive towards the changes the Cricket Committee is proposing. If all goes well, when Moody leaves on February 28, 2024, Sri Lanka will be much better equipped to face the future.
Jingle by James Sherwood