Bandula Warnapura, 55, is the Asian Cricket Council’s third Development Manager, taking the post in July 2008 following a successful administrative career in Sri Lanka.

He played with distinction for Sri Lanka before they achieved Test status and was their first captain in Tests and ODIs. He has been an ICC match referee, is a Level IV certified coach as well as being a Board-qualified Umpire.

After a spell as National Coach, in 1994 he became Sri Lanka’s Director of Coaching and since 2001 he has been their Director of Cricket Operations. He was Tournament Director of ICC U/19 World Cup 2006.

He speaks at length on the challenges facing him and the ACC from his office in the Kuala Lumpur Secretariat.

"With the ACC, I am seeing other countries go through the same stages Sri Lanka went through."

What is most challenging about your job as ACC Development Manager?

The challenging bit was getting to know how things work and now I’ve got to understand how things function at the ACC. Earlier I was handling only the development in Sri Lanka but now there are 18 countries with different cultures, different ways of doing things and also different restrictions coming from the governments. There is also a huge competition with the other sports which are established in those countries. Fortunately, for countries like Sri Lanka, we didn’t have that competition.

We have to be a bit careful in introducing cricket into countries so that we don’t antagonize the other sporting bodies. We need to work with them rather than against them. Another issue is arranging the required facilities considering different climatic conditions and this needs a close study of each and every country, which is quite hard to work out but gives a huge satisfaction, once completed.

The passing of the portfolio: Bandula Warnapura with former Development Manager Sultan Rana in Karachi, July 2008

Is development an art or a science?

It’s a bit of both. It’s not like architecture or engineering, it’s not as exact as that but you need to have the same kind of mindset in terms of planning and getting the job done. But you’re also dealing with human beings in an environment where they are also dealing with human beings and the art is to make everything and everyone work effectively. That’s where the art comes in.

You once said, “Cricket needs to be developed using other sports as a second game.” What did you mean by that?

There are three basic sports – gymnastics, swimming and athletics, and all other sports are built around them. Test and ODI Cricket is played by ten/fourteen countries, therefore it is not yet a global game. We have to make sure we use other sports to help and develop cricket. Athletics develops endurance and speed, swimming helps your breathing and gymnastics sharpens your flexibility and balance; all traits required in every game or sport.

Athletics may not be suitable due to varying weather conditions and facilities, but swimming and gymnastics can easily be done. Cricket gets a lot of assistance from these basic sports. Batting, bowling and fielding involves a lot of running, the hand-eye coordination can be helped with other sports such as table-tennis and badminton, and the balancing part comes not only in batting and bowling but also in fielding, where you have to be perfectly balanced in order to execute it. Hence it is important we combine cricket development with these sports.

Usain Bolt, currently the fastest man on earth, who won the 100m and 200m in the Beijing Olympics, initially came in to play cricket as a fast bowler but was put into athletics when someone saw him running. Had Michael Holding not given up athletics he too would’ve run in the Olympics. Holding had a very smooth action and run-up and so it shows the importance of working with these other sports which will assist and contribute in developing the game of cricket and its players. Unfortunately, parents of the kids playing cricket in the Asian region do not see this and want their children to play only cricket.

Next Page | “We have to be patient with these countries and work them slowly towards world status.”