Dual purpose Asanga Seneviratne has strength to perform well
DUAL ROLL: Asanga Seneviratne who has to play a dual purpose roles as
a Vice President at SLC and the President of Sri Lanka Rugby Football
Union the two most prestigious sports bodies in the country.
He expressed his confidence of discharging his duties with confidence
in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer.
The former Thomian cricketer cum rugby star who has excelled in both
sports said that as he had played both games at the highest level and
with meetings of the two Boards not held simultaneously, with proper
time management he could serve both Sports Bodies efficiently.
Seneviratne after a distinguished sports career at S. Thomas'
College, Mount Lavinia where he played cricket and rugger from 1982 to
1984, joined the Colombo Cricket Club and played cricket in the Premier
tournament from 1983 to 1995. He captained the club in 1992/1994. He
donned the Sri Lanka rugby jersey in 1988 and played for two years.
At cricket, Seneviratne represented the Sri Lanka Under-23 team
against a strong Pakistan Under-23 led by Salim Malik in 1985. Sri Lanka
was under Arjuna Ranatunga. He has scored over 5,000 first class runs
and in rugby he has scored over 100 points for CR&FC. Seneviratne has
proved that he is a genuine player in both sports.
Asanga Seneviratne, referring to the controversial issue of sacking
of the present national cricket coach Geoff Marsh said that it came in
the wake of some negative feed backs received from the team management
during his four months tenure with the national cricket team.
Excerpts of the interview with Asanga Seneviratne Vice President of
Q: Holding two responsible posts - a Vice President in the
Cricket Board and the President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union
and as a businessman, how do you find time to attend to the matters of
these two institutions?
A: As you know I have played both sports at the highest level
over a decade at first class level and coming into administration. I do
not have any issue because the meetings are not held simultaneously. It
is at different times and if you manage the time prudently it won't be a
problem as you can give your best for both sports.
Q: There have been widespread allegations and criticism that
the SLC AG was a politically motivated one?
A: Those allegations come from disgruntled parties who
couldn't get themselves elected. There are minorities in my opinion. But
the cricket loving public and the clubs know who are the best people to
be in SLC. I think this set of administrators are a balanced lot. There
is a lot of experience and there is also young entrepreneur leadership
in the team. It is a team that could definitely take cricket forward in
Q: What are your views on terminating the services of the
highly professional Australian coach Geoff Marsh just after a stint of
A: Personally, as a past player I am of the opinion of the
coaches role is a very difficult one. You cannot blame the coach for
one's failure as a player. The players must stand up and take the
responsibility for that. Where Marsh is concerned, it was a decision
taking into consideration lot of factors from the feed back we got from
the team management. It has nothing to do with any personal agenda. It
was done purely on the feed back that we had got. My personal opinion is
of course that it is not the failure of the coach for the performance in
South Africa. This was done in consideration of what was given back by
the team management.
Q: What is the guarantee that the new South African coach
Graham Ford could deliver the goods?
A: Ford has a very good track record in the past. And we hope
it would work, because it is not good to keep on changing coaches as we
have done. I really hope he will work hard for Sri Lanka. It is very
important for the team to realise that we have a new captain again
Mahela, and I believe that he is the right man for the job, even for the
coach it will make his job that much easier with Mahela, who captained
the team earlier.
Q: Coming to rugby, as the President of the SLRFU what have
you got in store with the Five Nation Tournament to be staged in
Philippines in April 2012.
A: We have already named a pool for the tournament. We have
sent out contracts to 23 players. For the first time in the country's
rugby history Rugby Union players will be contracted to the Board and
they will be paid a fee for that. We have already identified the
strength and the fitness of the players and we are in the process of
recruiting a foreign coach who will be in the Island in late February.
So we will have a full two months training prior to the tournament in
April. Our priority is to get into the top division.
Q: Why not try an indigenous coach instead of one from
A: Most of the top clubs are coached by foreigners. The reason
for that is the local coaches upto now do not seem to have performed in
a manner which is accepted at national level. We have a great challenge
ahead of us and the unanimous verdict is that we need foreign expertise
at this stage. But looking forward we may consider having a local as
coach. But then again we must have coaches coaching the top three or
four clubs at least if they to be considered for national duty.
Q: As we know rugby is a body contact game and the strength
and the speed is needed to overcome the challenges more than a coach?.
A: I agree, but there are lots of tactics also. A team like
ours which lays a lot of emphasis in strength in the sense that we may
be not as strong as the opposition where we'll have to use a lot of
tactics to counter that. The game also has changed radically, we could
see 15 to 20 phases in rugby today. In the good old days when we were
playing it was two or three phases maximum. So the game is faster and
lot more physical commitments is necessary. But our boys are that much
bigger now. They are five or ten kilos bigger than the players we had in
the past. So we are also developing, but now it is to give the boys the
right combination of coaching and training and the experience to excel
at international level.
Q: Will fielding foreign players in domestic tournament help
to improve the game?
A: Of course! I am a firm believer that it must be open. Even
to the extent of allowing three, four or even five foreign players. At
the moment only two players are permitted. It cannot be designated it
should be open as it is a professional era. It's an era of Cable TV and
sponsorship and professionalism and we can't go far with restrictions.
If it has to be successful, foreigners and locals must be freely allowed
Q: Any new developments?
A: In cricket, with the staging of the T20 World Cup in
September, we will look at different levels of entertainment at the
venues to ensure that we'll have a full house. There are lot of events
planned. Also for the England tour we are planning special areas for
spectators with entertainment and lot of activity which we haven't seen
in the past.
In rugby we are again looking at the entertaining aspect. I believe
today it is all about keeping the crowd going and ensuring that the
people are treated to an evening of entertainment. We are not doing
anything at rugby matches at the moment.
We are planning to have pre-match events and during half-time and
also after the game.
We are hoping to play night matches under lights probably during the
next season. The former Race Course is been developed to a rugby
grounds. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has earmarked that ground for
rugby. That will be a fully fledged one with lights which could be
utilised during the season.
We are also hoping to develop CR&FC, Havelock SC and Nittawela for