Hathurusingha will not play an official role in selecting the squad for a series – that role will continue to be fulfilled by the existing selection panel headed by Graham Labrooy. However, once a squad has been chosen, Hathurusingha, Gurusinha and the captain will form the three-man on-tour selection panel that picks the final XI for each match.
This new selection protocol, which was ratified by SLC’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Sunday, is something of a compromise. Hathurusingha had wanted to be a selector – a position he had enjoyed as head coach of Bangladesh. Sri Lanka’s Sports Law, however, prevents a head coach of a national team from simultaneously functioning as a selector of that team. Making him a selector-on-tour is SLC’s attempt to grant Hathurusingha the power he desires, without falling foul of the law.
“Mr. Hathurusingha had lengthy discussions with us, and we found that if we are to demand a high quality of performance, we have to give him 100% backing,” SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala said. “Sometimes a coach might tell a player: ‘Go out and get 20 runs in the next one or two overs,’ and they might get out. If you look only at the statistics, that player might be dropped. But if the selectors are aware of the situation, and the coach says, ‘He got out because I told him to get these runs,” then [that player will get more support]. That is our thinking – to give the coach that muscle. If you expect one of the top coaches to come and help us out, we must give him the backing.”
Although this is the first time a Sri Lanka coach has been granted official selection powers (at least in a limited sense), Hathurusingha is not the head of the on-tour selection panel. That power remains with cricket manager Gurusinha, who has more-or-less functioned as the most powerful selector-on-tour since being appointed by SLC last year. Gurusinha is also a member of the selection panel that picks the wider squad.
“The tour manager is the chairman of selectors on tour – that’s as per our board’s constitution,” Sumathipala said. “That is not just peculiar to our national team, it’s across all our age-group sides as well. The manager is the one who reports to us and has to justify the selections to the board. As such, the manager has that power.”
Hathurusingha’s first assignment with the side will be the forthcoming tri-series in Bangladesh, which features Zimbabwe in addition to the hosts. The captain for that series (who will also now function as an on-tour selector), will be named on January 9.
Sri Lanka selectors: Graham Labrooy (chairman), Jeryl Woutersz, Gamini Wickremasinghe, Sajith Fernando, Asanka Gurusinha
Sri Lanka selectors-on-tour: Asanka Gurusinha (chairman), Chandika Hathurusingha, [team captain].