Great start, now for the finishing school

SRI LANKA became the new cricket world champions with an exhilarating combination of outrageous innovation and hard professionalism. The really bad news for their opponents is the likelihood that they ain't seen nothin' yet.

Even as the marvellously rotund captain of the side, Arjuna Ranatunga, was striking the final's winning blow in Lahore, plans were being laid back home in Colombo to ensure that any laurels resting would be brief.

Last December, one of Ranatunga's predecessors, Anura Tennekoon, was given the task of developing a cricket finishing school for talented youth, the sort of institution which has been frequently discussed in England, though never established. During the World Cup, Tennekoon supervised the finishing touches to the building and grounds and took delivery of the last of the necessary equipment. In the next three months he will formulate schedules, select candidates and hire coaches. By June the Sri Lankan National Academy of Cricket will be open.

"Our cricketers start playing at a young age in senior cricket and it is not uncommon for them to be in at the ages of 18 or 19 so they are gaining much experience early," Tennekoon said from his Colombo offices last week. "But it was felt that an academy could bring them something extra so that they are more prepared by the time they go on to the field. Technique is an important part of that but so is mental resilience."

Tennekoon, who retired as his country's captain two years before it was awarded Test status in 1981 and was general secretary of the Board of Control until starting his present job, is aware that the formidable one-day triumphs have not yet been matched by anything remotely similar in Test matches (victory over England in both forms of the game hardly counting in this regard). On Sri Lanka's tour of Australia earlier this winter they provided stern opposition in the limited-overs internationals but were thoroughly outplayed throughout the three-match Test series.

"There is a difference; of course we know that," Tennekoon said. "That is what we have to try to address here. We are fairly sure we have good, sound players coming through, bowlers as well as batsmen and we have to make them ready for the long haul of international competition, to be ready for games of five days.

"We want to develop players who have the concentration,shrewdness and resolve to last out long days of hard international competition. That is the main objective but we don't intend to stop their natural flair."

Tennekoon, 49, is hardly less revered in the country today than Ranatunga and his team. He was captain in their first World Cup sortie in 1975 and when they won the inaugural ICC Trophy which allowed them entry into the 1979 competition. (He was absent with a hamstring injury on the day they beat India.)

The team stayed on in England that summer for a series of first-class matches against thecounties and the immense charm and joy of their cricket was fully appreciated for the first time. Not that anybody considered what might be happening a mere 17 years later.

Tennekoon's most enduring contribution to the tour as a batsman - one he still affectionately recalls - was a graceful century at Canterbury. It almost helped the Sri Lankans to a noteworthy win but Kent were rescued from deep trouble by an elegant centurion of their own. Tennekoon may shortly be renewing acquaintance with Bob Woolmer by adapting some of the South Africa coach's original training methods.

The World Cup win has caused an outbreak of cricket in a country already overflowing with it. "It has boosted the game wonderfully at the right time," Tennekoon said. "School cricket has always been extremely popular and will remain so but now I think the whole country has fallen in love with the game. It's a joy to go into the rural areas and see all sorts of games of cricket being played by the kids."

He does not view the lack of a professional domestic competition as a disadvantage. More worrying is the occasional lack of Test series. In their 14 years as a Test nation, for instance, England have played them just five times, never in a rubber of more than one match.

"That's been disappointing," Tennekoon said, politely refusing to go further. "Perhaps now we are world champions it will change. We have some fine players. We know some will be going out of the game soon [among whom may be the 32-year-old Ranatunga] but we are prepared for that. And the only way they can learn to play Test cricket is to play it.

"What I have proposed before is that instead of a host country playing a Test series of five matches against another country and then giving us one at the end, perhaps they could play for four and give us two."

It was shaming to hear such words of humility. For world champions, at whatever version of the game, it was hardly too much to ask.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker