of the past
A sportsman who spent many, many years coaching cricketers at all
levels was laid to rest last week end. Gerry Goonaratne lived a
complete cricketing life and was involved with coaching almost to
his last breadth. His final assignment was coaching juniors at the
He was well
into his eighties in age and in the final few years was physically
very frail. Yet the mind was in order to pass on the knowledge and
teach the basic lessons to youngsters now taking the initial steps
in their cricket career.
was a typical coach of the past. Almost all the lessons were based
around the techniques of the game. Naturally, this meant that most
of the time was spent with batsmen. They were drilled on the stance,
backlift, correct decisive foot movements, co-ordinated use of the
arms, a still head, watching the ball was communicated until it
became second nature to the players.
As a coach
my connection with Goonaratne was during the two short stints he
had as national coach in the mid nineteen seventies. The approach
was similar. A lot of emphasis on the basics. This meant that the
bowlers had to work a lot out for themselves. Then, bowling was
considered necessarily a side on act. So that was preached and the
importance of keeping to the correct line and length. Again, a lot
of basic stuff without too much of variations.
then a neglected art. Some catches given, together with ground fielding
at the end of a practice session. As long as you caught and slopped
what came to you, then the job was done satisfactorily. In terms
of practice it is about ten percent of what is being done today.
Unquestionably, the standard of fielding has improved tremendously
of any nature was more or less left up to the individual. There
were training camps time and again but that was rare. The thinking
was to get fit by playing and practicing, spending time batting
and bowling for long periods.
The coach often
maintained discipline and upheld the game being playedwithin the
traditions and sporting spirit. Not too many took up to coaching
in the past. Those who did, did so for the love of the game. There
was little or no money in the job. Many served in honorary capacities.
Therefore, immaterial of their ability to coach, they were accepted
Like all else
in the game, the role of the coach has changed to different proportions.
Today, a coach must have a sound knowledge of the game immaterial
of the level he has played up to. In addition he has to be a good
communicator, a motivator, an up to date planner, have a vision
for the future, a psychologist, a father, or brother figure, an
avid reader of the game and a clever tactician. The responsibilities
are mammoth. It has therefore moved into the professional category.
There are just
a handful of survivors of the Gerry Gooneratne era of coaches. They
played their part in an era where the coach was the unforeseen hand
behind a players success. Yet their role must be forever appreciated
as they guided the destinies of so many.