If you have watched Team Nepal playing cricket, whether it is at home or abroad, you cannot miss vociferous crowd chanting for Nepali win. If you are close by the pavilion, you would also see the players pumping their fists or exclaiming on fall of wickets or boundaries scored. If you look closer, you would see a man – in his 40s – who looks completely detached from what is going on the field.
That man is Pubudu Dassanayake.
Make no mistake, this man – Sri Lanka born Canadian national – who currently coaches Nepal cricket team, is anything but detached from the game. In fact, he is calculating, analyzing and thinking on what he needs to do next. Even after his team wins the match, you don’t see him jumping around in joy, or fist-pumping. You’d see him smiling. His grin widens, if you tell him, “Congratulations, Coach!”
Those in the know within Nepali cricket circle tell you, Pubudu is the best thing to happen to Nepali cricket.
If you look at the stats, after Dassanayake took the charge of Nepal Cricket in September 2011, success has been coming our way. Under him, Nepal took the title of ICC World Cricket League Division 4 and 3, became joint winner of ACC Trophy 2012 (for the first time), became semi-finalist of ACC T20 2011, reached the final of ACC T20 2013 (both for the first time), and to top it all, Nepal qualified for the World T20. Stats don’t lie.
In past few years, things have changed in Nepali cricket. You see players are more agile, more confident and delivering when it is expected of them. It cannot be mere coincidence that the change started since Pubudu took over.
When Dassanayake came to Nepal, he told yours truly, “Nepali players do not seem to be mentally strong.” Just two years from that, he says, “The boys know what is expected of them and they are fulfilling their roles.”
In these two years, Nepali cricket changed. The players have now started believing in their abilities. Nepal’s former captain Binod Das says, “Pubudu had the belief that Nepal can enter the World Cup, even when we had doubts.”
Somewhere along the lines, Dassanayake has been successful in instilling that belief in the players, that they belonged to higher level, that they could achieve what fans could only dream of. Ever since he came here, he tried to send Nepali cricketers abroad to play. Captain Paras Khadka and Gyanendra Malla played in Canadian League. Some other players played in Sri Lanka, some in India. A coach taking personal initiative to develop players. It is a rare sight in any sport.
Despite playing Test matches for Sri Lanka, Dassanayake’s batting record is anything but great. But when he came to Nepal, he came with a reputation. A reputation of taking Canada to World Cup. Nepali fans hoped he would do the same for Nepal. And he did, coaching Nepal to World T20.
When I asked Nepal captain Paras Khadka what was the biggest factor behind Nepal reaching the World T20. He said, “Pubudu. We’re here because of him.”
That is perhaps the reason why the soft-spoken Sri Lankan stays quiet most of the time, and lets players take the limelight.