By Rohit Bhandiye
Goa Cricket Association has appointed former Sri Lanka left-arm seam bowler Nuwan Zoysa as Goa’s consulting coach for Ranji Trophy season (2012-13).
Zoysa represented Sri Lanka from 1997-2007 in 30 Test matches and 95 ODIs picking up 64 and 108 wickets respectively.
In an interview with The Navhind Times, Zoysa talks about the Goan cricket scenario, the challenges ahead, Sri Lankan cricket, Sri Lanka Premier League, T20 World Cup hosted by Sri Lanka and his experince of playing in the IPL.
What made you join the Goa Cricket Association?
I met these two gentlemen – Vinod Phadke and Chetan Desai – for the first time in Colombo during T20 World Cup through common friends Vijay Singh and Madhukar from Hyderabad. They approached me with this offer of coaching the Goan cricket team. So, I am here to spend some time with the Goa Cricket Association.
What will be your role with Goa’s Ranji Trophy team?
I have joined as a consulting coach for 10 days for Goa’s Ranji Trophy team this season. I will be joining as a full-time coach next season since I have now my earlier commitments back in Sri Lanka. I had a good chat with Goa’s current coach Dodda Ganesh. I spoke to him about the various issues pertaining to the team, the strengths and weaknesses of the individual players, how to play in a four-day format. The next step would be to take the team to the next level. For that to happen, it’s up to the players to perform.
Your assessment on the standard of Goan Cricket.
Goan cricket is good. Players like Shadab Jakati, Amogh Desai, Robin D’Souza are experienced players. Also, there are a couple of exciting youngsters in the team. I have identified some talent. Now, I have to work with them. I have seen lots of videos of the past matches about the boys. They have to show a lot of character while playing a match. It all depends on how they cope with the pressure situation.
What will be your biggest challenge for the Ranji Trophy season ahead?
If I get the opportunity I will use all my experience to manage these guys and take them to the next level. They are young, talented bunch. They should believe in themselves. It is not easy to play for four days. There are certain issues that need to be addressed while playing, like how to play during home and away matches, maintaining consistency in performance.
Can you tell us about your coaching assignments in Sri Lanka?
At present I am the head coach of one of the leading and oldest clubs in Colombo - NCC (Nondescripts Cricket Club). I have also done other coaching stints in the past. In the Sri Lankan Premier League, I was the Assistant coach of the franchise - Nagenahira Nagas.
How much has Sri Lanka Premier League benefited Sri Lankan cricket?
Just like Indian Premier League (IPL), Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) has discovered two hidden talents this season – Akila Dananjaya and Dilshan Munaweera. Infact, Akila Danajaya even played for the Sri Lanka squad in the finals of the T20 World Cup against West Indies and he is just 19 years of age. In future, you may even see Goan cricketers playing in the Sri Lanka Premier League.
Sri Lanka has successfully hosted the T20 World Cup. Your thoughts.
The people in Sri Lanka were very excited to have such a large multi-nation tournament. The tournament was well organized by the Sri Lankan Cricket Board. It was the first time that such a large event was being held in Sri Lanka. Initially, there were fewer crowds for the matches. But, during later stage of the tournament it picked up and for the semi-finals and finals it was house-full.
Losing to West Indies in the T20 WC finals was a heart break for Sri Lanka, wasn’t it?
It was quite disappointing for us 20 million Sri Lankans to see the home side lose in the finals. This despite the fact that Sri Lanka played very well during the entire tournament and was the only unbeaten side. But, full credit to West Indies. Although they made few mistakes in the finals, thanks to Marlon Samuels’s brilliant innings they could defend the modest total of 137. They were a better side that day.
How come Sri Lanka being a small country has produced so many great cricketers?
Sri Lankan Cricket Board has the vision to pick the right guys who are talented enough to play for Sri Lanka. Most of the guys who have made it big in Sri Lankan cricket are from outside Colombo like Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Muthiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga. They have sacrificed a lot. They are also very hard working.
Your experience while playing alongside bowling greats – Chaminda Vaas and Muthiah Muralitharan.
Chaminda Vaas and Muthiah Muralitharan are arguably the best bowlers produced in the sub-continent. In fact, I would rate Vaas as next only to Wasim Akram and Murali as the best in the world. It was a great privilege to play alongside these guys. It helped me a lot.
What has been your experience of playing in the IPL?
I was a part of the Deccan Chargers team in the first edition of IPL in 2008. In the second year I could not play since my ankle was broken. Playing in IPL helped me a lot. Our team consisted of world class players such as Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and VVS Laxman. Robin Singh was our coach.
You became the first player in the history of Test Cricket to take a hat-trick off the first three balls of the match.
It was in November 1999 against Zimbabwe at Harare. In my first three balls of the Test match, I took the wickets of Trevor Gripper, Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson. No one has ever achieved this feat in Test Cricket’s 135-year old history. It was a proud moment for me, my family and Sri Lankan Cricket. I still have the photographs of that historic moment.
Your opinion about Sachin Tendulkar.
I have got him out about 4-5 times. He is still playing good cricket and has been scoring runs. He has nothing to prove to anyone. Everyone goes through a tough phase in life.