Kaluwitharana: 'Focus should not be on T20 when you are young'

Romesh Kaluwitharana rated Virat Kohli as the favourite batsman among the current lot. He also advised youngsters aged below 19 to keep away from the Twenty20 format.

Romesh Kaluwitharana is in India as part of Sri Lanka Legends team for the Road Safety World Series.   -  Vivek Bendre

Romesh Kaluwitharana, a cheeky batsman who would startle pacers with his power-hitting in the 50-overs format, is part of the Sri Lanka Legends squad in Unacademy Road Safety World Series.

The Lankan opener and member of the 1996 World Cup-winning team, said he admired Mahela Jayawardene’s batting, rated Virat Kohli as his favourite batsman among the current lot and advised budding cricketers to keep away from the Twenty20 format. Excerpts:

Your thoughts on playing for Sri Lanka Legends at the Wankhede...

We had a good start, happy to have won against the mighty Australia Legends. They played good cricket, we sneaked through. It feels great to be back in Mumbai and play cricket for a cause.

Post-retirement life

For 11 years I was into coaching and was the coach for Sri Lanka A team for six years. For some reason, I have given up coaching and have my own business, a holiday resort. I am not involved with cricket at the moment.

A player who you wouldn’t mind paying to watch

There are many players I like. Nowadays, I like the Indian captain. Virat Kohli gets runs all the time, he is consistent and his hard work is paying off. I like to see him bat. In any format, under any conditions, he is successful.

On Mahela Jayawardene

Mahela has been a great ambassador for Sri Lanka. He was an intelligent player, maximised his ability. He put a lot of thinking into batting. Never a power-hitter, he got big scores in T20 due to capability for placing the ball into gaps and getting runs when team needs.

How can one be an effective batsman across formats?

Any batsman with skills can do well. Even in T20 you don’t need to be a power-hitter, because what is necessary is to get more than a run-a-ball when you are batting. Placing the ball into gaps and playing intelligent cricket is as effective.

Do you see a lot of changes in batting since T20s came into existence?

With new rules coming in, players are getting innovative. More than technical aspect, there is more power hitting and big shots. Batting is all about entertainment, cricket has taken a slight turn and in formats like this, you need runs on the board.

Any advice to youngsters?

As a youngster, at 19, I don’t think you should look at T20 cricket too much, because at that age you are developing and learning how to build your innings your career. There is always a risk factor if the focus is on T20 only. It will not give you the necessary edge to become a good cricketer, to be tactically and technically sound. I would not advise any player to start off with T20.

Staggered appeals

The Sri Lankan World Cupper visited China as part of an Asian Cricket Council panel of coaches and administrators in 2006, for a first-hand look at cricket development in the Asian nation. Kaluwitharane, 50, recalled: “I was there for about a week and the efforts put in by the China Cricket Association was immense. We had a very good plan till the year 2020.”

The Lankan opener added: “They (Chinese) did not have former cricketers to coach the new generations and as a result, there was a big gap. Communication gap was an issue for a coach going there to train the coaches. The Chinese are trying their very best, unfortunately the coronavirus has hit them in a big way. I hope and pray that it will soon be over.”

Recalling an incident, he said: “It happened during a game. I don’t remember the venue in China. The ball hit a batsman and after about 10 seconds, one guy appealed to the umpire, then five seconds later came a second appeal from far out. We heard an appeal from one corner, then another corner as others picked up the cue from his teammate and went on appealing. It was funny to watch staggered appeals from many corners. They were still getting to know the game.”

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