I will take my departure as a changeHaving scripted glorious days of Nepali cricket in the last four years, Pubudu Dassanayake has left for Canada quitting as the national team coach.
Having scripted glorious days of Nepali cricket in the last four years, Pubudu Dassanayake left for Canada quitting as the national team coach. The 45-year old cricket strategist guided Nepal to unprecedented successes including qualifications to the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 and World Cricket League Championship — an elite 50-over competition between the non-Test playing countries. Dassanayake spoke to Adarsha Dhakal before his departure. Excerpts:
How do you remember the last four years?
There are lots of memories. I will always remember to have the chance to work with the set of players who were committed and eager to improve. I am 100 percent sure that I will not get such set of players in any team in the world.
What was your first impression about Nepali cricket when you came here?
I did lot of research before coming here. One of the reasons for me to take the job was that I found out abundance of talented cricketers here. And that was exactly where I wanted to be and groom such players. I am happy with what we have achieved.
Where does Nepali cricket stands at the moment?
Nepal cricket is at crossroads. As it stands, it's in a very fragile state and if it is not taken care of properly, all the hard work done this far can be wasted. We are playing at a level which is tough than Division 2, 3 or 4. We played a total of 10 matches — six in Division 2 and four in World Cricket League (WCL) — and seven of those fixtures were decided in the last over. We should have coasted to victories in many of those games but instead had to wait until the last over. The reason was obvious: lack of experience in players.
We can take Sagar Pun as an example in this regard. He struggled for runs for eight to 10 months before coming out of the clouds lately. Only lately did he manage to score in 40s or 50s. Now Nepal are two and half months away from their next WCL match (against Namibia). To see Sagar perform to his potential, we need to give him at least 15 to 20 competitive matches ahead of a big event. Nepal is blessed to have a talent like him and even a slight improvement in his ability could make a huge difference in the team's results. And there are many such players in Nepal whose talents are going down the drain in the lack of proper exposure.
How was it possible to qualify for World Twenty20?
It all came due to the hard work of the players. Before my first assignment (2011 ACC Twenty20), Nepal had not even made it to the second round of the ACC Twenty20. It was a real challenge for me to pass that hurdle. I knew the boys were technically correct but were unable to play big shots. We worked on it, and with the hard work that we put in together, everything fell into its place and we qualified for the World T20.
Do you regret not being able to change the domestic structure of cricket in Nepal?
Yes I do. It’s really disheartening to see that that a national team of immense potential isn't backed up by the management. It happened to Kenya and other Associate countries in the past and I fear that Nepal could fall in the same path. The other thing that I also regret is not being able to put officials and players on the same table. It will never help when there is communication gap between administration and players.
Don’t you think the team needs you more right now than when you came in because the team is also in a verge of transition?
I am sad to leave at this point. I wanted certain changes to the system in Nepali cricket but I failed. I could have stuck with the job having agreed to the prevalent system but that would have been dishonest as I would have contributed nothing. I hope the change of guard will bring in desired change in the days ahead.
Your last few years as Nepal coach was blighted by controversies. Do you regret that?
These controversies are the part of the job. It was precisely one of the reasons why I left my previous job (as coach of Canada) because I didn’t like the way things were moving then. You can see their (Canada) declining performance these days. Some people might say that I was making money in Nepal but cricket was never a job for me here. I just wanted to put things in right place regardless of the consequences.
If I had wanted to keep this job for a longer period, I would have carried on with this system and be in the good books for certain people. But being in charge of a team which had continuously put extra efforts on the field to bring results for the country, I couldn't keep quiet and questioned the inefficient administration. I had to pay the price for that and quit the job.
Doesn’t it give you a bitter feeling to leave a country that has loved you so much?
It’s not easy. I had a very emotional evening with the players before my departure. The bond that I build up here is beyond cricket. I would always be connected with people who have done so much of hard work. I will be ready to help anyone who had been close to me.
As you head back to Canada, what is your advice to CAN? What are the steps that it needs to take?
We have to be a bit creative to find things which can help us perform better in WCL. Firstly, we need to put a six-month domestic cricket season that will allow all the national and regional players engage in a busy schedule. We need a second string team training under local coaches. To have a bigger impact in the national team, the second string team needs to play domestic cricket in full member countries. The change needs to happen now because we are already running out of time.