We Need A Drummer To Play A 100 Balls Innings - Sri Lanka Batting Coach > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - We need a batsman to play a 100 balls in an innings - Sri Lanka batting coach

"We have had pretty brutal periods away from home, and it can have an impact over the long period of time"

The numbers, they paint a dire picture for Sri Lanka. In ODIs since January 2018, they are the only side to have an overall batting average under 30 (24.61). They lose a wicket every 28.75 balls (worst) and is the only side to score fewer than five ODI hundreds among teams playing in the World Cup. Ben Lewis, the former Durham man, has the onerous task, as batting coach, to radically turn the fortunes around six months since taking over from Thilan Samaraweera. To compound his problems, he's had a constant revolving door of players to work with an entirely new group for the World Cup.

Before the ECB-sponsored Hundred sees the light of the day next year, Sri Lanka's batting coach has his own 'Hundred' challenge for his wards. He reveals that and more in this exclusive interview.

Excerpts

What is the biggest need of the hour for Sri Lanka?

A player batting 100 balls. Look, if Dimuth scores a hundred, he'll probably do it in 120 balls. His first half will be slow but I think he'll get there in 120 balls. That's manageable for us. That's fine. Because Thiri [Lahiru Thirimanne] will be slightly different, then we have Kusal [Perera] who will probably go better than a Strike Rate of 100 if he gets to 70-80. The problem is not the strike rate for us. The problem is we are not playing enough big enough innings at the top of the order. I was just getting the stats guy to tell me when the last ODI innings that lasted a 100 balls was. We are going back quite a long way... possibly August last year when Angelo [Mathews] got 70 odd. We got two rapid 100s in New Zealand - Kusal got one and Thisara got another big one. Two exceptional innings but you want your top 4-5 batsmen to bat 100-ball innings and allow us to structure a 50-over innings which allow us to use the strengths that we have, which people like Thisara [Perera], Isuru Udana later on (can capitalise on). If they've got a foundation, they can do some damage. But we're not giving them a foundation. It's been a perpetual theme for but it's the right message. We need to execute this better. The players need to do better.

Where do you start the debrief when your team has just been bowled out for 136?

I thought we started well against New Zealand. After eight overs we were ahead. At the start of the game, I thought: 'Geez this could be really tough'. [Trent] Boult at his best is a handful on any pitch. We lost a Thirimanne early on and that can happen. But then we did well. If we come out of powerplay 1 for 50, then I'm thinking 'tick'. We got the first bit done and then threw it away. I honestly think if we get into the 30 overs mark where we are maybe three down, we can score heavily in the last 20. It wasn't a bad pitch once the ball went soft. We didn't have the foundation and we were struggling.

What do you tell a strokemaker like Kusal Perera after he throws his wicket in a bid to play his natural game?

You go back and say to him, 'You were being aggressive to width and that was your success'. To be fair to Kusal, that is a really strong part of his game, he creates width even when there isn't width, that's how he gets his boundaries. Going after a straighter ball on that pitch, was a bigger gamble than was necessary. He has done some work but we can't change things overnight. We have spoken about making good choices. In a squad that doesn't have a lot of experience, he is one of the few. We are entitled to expect better.

What is your most experienced batsman, Angelo Matthews, doing batting at No.6?

I think we were flexible with our batting order yesterday. Angelo is a guy who can score a 100 in the last 30 overs. That was tough on Dhananjaya de Silva who got shunted up [and got out for 4]. But he's been looking good, DDS. You can see why it happened but it didn't work. It wasn't the planning that didn't work, it was the batting that didn't work. We didn't bat very well. The two partnerships that we had, we were responsible for them coming to an end. It wasn't good bowling that finished us. It came through bad selection.

Why has it been so difficult for Sri Lanka to get out of this batting rut?

Confidence. We've just come off tours of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. We have been exposed to and exposed by some quick and bouncy pitches and some outstanding seam attacks. In a way, that is having a partial detrimental effect that the confidence has continuously taken a hit. We had Rabada, Ngidi, Steyn through South Africa was a challenge. Then Test matches in Australia with Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood... they were very tough. We have had pretty brutal periods away from home. And it can have an impact over the long period of time. We haven't had nearly enough wins in this format as well. We need to look after that confidence and when you come up and see a green pitch on the first day off what we have come through, some players may have been thinking "oh my god, this isn't what I need."

Can you, as batting coach, address confidence in the middle of a World Cup?

Well, some of the guys who haven't played international cricket are finding they are having to learn first class at World Cup level. The confidence aspect and unity of the group is one of the reasons why Dimuth was such a strong candidate for captain. He did such a good job with the group in South Africa and obviously the Test results in SA were quite big on him being appointed captain for this. That's something he is good at: bringing a group together and instilling belief in them. There are things you can do in practice, which hopefully the guys walk out of practice thinking I'm in a good place. In a way, that's your role as a coach. You want to test them, you want to stretch them. But maybe between games like this, you want them to feel good. You need them to walk out of the net and say: 'I feel good'. You don't want them to think, 'Oh god I'm really struggling here.' Because that's what they finished with yesterday.

You've been working with Isuru Udana's technique. Is the World Cup a good place for technical changes in a young squad?

I wouldn't want to get too technical with the players. Maybe one thing that you would work in a player, but you wouldn't want to [meddle too much]. I know Avishka [Fernando] isn't playing in the XI but he is very close to the side. There are some areas which I want to explore with him because I think he is a very talented player. But I can't go every session talking about it. Isuru, we have got some hitting sessions. There are areas he hits well but some areas and lines he doesn't connect. We talked about the use of wrists in his power hitting, he hits the ball a long way but he hits the ball a long way only from specific lines. If we can get some wrist work into his hitting, we can try and do drills. They won't inhibit him in anyway. It's just ball striking for the World Cup. If he does with some more emphasis on his wrist work, it'll work for him.

You've been in the role for about five months now. Is that enough to prepare a team for a World Cup?

It's interesting, because over the five months [I've been here] I remember having conversations in New Zealand on where the squad was and how we were going to work a way of playing One Day cricket which best suits the abilities that we have. It kind of changed with each squad that has come. So we have had to constantly reevaluate the strength of each squads and how therefore we play. We can't go play like England's batting line-up because we don't have England's batting line-up! We have some skills. Bringing Dimuth in at the top in England could really work for us. He doesn't stand out as an obvious opening batsman in ODIs by modern standards. But if the ball is going to do a bit for us in England, then having a Test opener at the top could be a bonus. We could use that to our advantage and then work through Thisara and Isuru further down the order where the ball gets softer and they can take advantage and provide the big score that you do need in ODI.

How difficult is it to coach when you don't know who you'll be coaching the next series?

It is difficult at times, but exciting also. The one thing I have had since December when I started is I've seen a lot of cricketers. And I've seen a lot of very good cricketers. There are a lot of players you feel you want to spend more time with going forward. You feel the next 18 months, two years there's a nucleus of guys who have enough ability to start testing themselves at international levels. They need to be exposed to that quite a lot. The gap between first class cricketers and international is larger than in other countries. I haven't seen a lot of first class cricket in Sri Lanka and people tell me the gap is big and that is a problem. That makes it all the more important that we have a pathway for the players that takes through A team cricket, high performance and then to the national team. If first class isn't preparing them for the next level up then we have to put in place good pathways for players who have the ability.

You've had to rely on a player translating messages from head coach Chandika Hathurusingha. Is the language barrier a problem?

It has happened. To be fair, I'm fortunate most of the guys their English is pretty good. My Sinhalese is non-existent and I need to be around a lot more longer to get to grips with that. Occasionally I do have to lean on other members of the staff to help with finer points. In my eyes, coaching is about communication as much about knowledge. You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you don't have the communicate, then you are not much of value. It's a good challenge. I think it is making me a better coach because I have to do it in slightly different ways at times.

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