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Since 1st March, 1999
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I live and die on every ball: Whatmore
ĎWhile the Aravinda of old canít return, he has shown glimpses of his genius in this World Cupí

Johannesburg: Back in 1996, Dav Whatmoreís planning and the brilliant on-field execution by Arjuna Ranatunga gave Sri Lanka the World Cup ó and a new identity. Whatmore, who has worn Australian colours in the big league, didnít have a role in Sri Lankaís 1999 campaign but is in the thick of action in World Cup 2003.

Whatmore likes keeping a low profile and isnít particularly fond of one-to-one intervi- ews. However, he made an exception for The Telegraph Sunday evening and spoke for around half-an-hour at the team hotel (Intercontinental Sandton Sun & Towers).

The following are excerpts

On whether the game has changed from the 1996 World Cup till now

Cricket is evolving all the time... The teams have become more professional, with more support staff and such like... The preparation too has got better. Indeed, the quality of planning has improved at a faster rate than other areas... Also, the skill-level of players has risen a few notches.

On how different has his own planning been (the present World Cup vis-a-vis 1996)

As a lead-up, Iíve been with the team a lot longer than 1996. Then, I had been around for less than a year... This time, Iíve had more opportunity to try and hit the right combination ó mind you, without having a role in the selection. That we toured South Africa at the start of the season has helped.

On that tour being disastrous

Thatís because any team from the sub-continent requires time to adjust to conditions which, obviously, are very different. Itís never an easy time, itís always frustrating... Itís been different in the World Cup, as weíve played a range of countries (not just South Africa) who also required time to adjust. Weíve had the advantage of having toured the country not too long ago.

On whether he has himself changed as coach

(Laughs) The principles havenít... The top principle, of course, is working on individuals to get better... I look at improvement rather than the end-result... The planning, though, is better. Instead of leaving things for the last minute, at the team meeting, we begin the chipping-away process a few days earlier. In the modern era, itís important to be flexible.

On the present team vis-a-vis the World Cup-winning one in 1996

Weíre definitely a better fielding side now but, as a team, 1996 was better... It was more experienced and, frankly, very hard to beat. We proved it.

On his own emotions in his second World Cup as coach

Getting to the next stage (the semi-finals) will please me... At times, Iím a bit too emotional... I live and die on every ball... Perhaps, I get very angry on the spur of the moment ó but that doesnít last too long. You could say Iím desperate for the team to do well.

On, over the years, what has he learnt as coach

That a coach will be much better off if he is the master of his own destiny... In soccer, for instance, the coach (or manager) is the man. Not so in cricket, where he may not even have a say in selection. Quite often, the coach doesnít get the players he wants, doesnít have a role in the building-up process... Should the coach have a vote at selection meetings' Given my situation, itís a must.

On whether he agrees with John Buchanan that the powers-that-be donít seem to think a coach has a contribution in the betterment of the sport

(Grins) Absolutely. I think we should have a coachesí body at the international level... We do need a platform from where we can be heard and the administrators will benefit if they seek our inputs as well. Surely, we can offer a different perspective on how cricket should move forward.

On Sri Lankaís run in this World Cup

But for that Kenya game (in Nairobi), Iím extremely satisfied... We shouldnít have tripped at that hurdle and complacency ought not to have taken root. On that slow track, chasing 211, we should have been comfortably home. It wasnít nice losing, but the Kenyansí enthusiasm stood out. In fact, their body-language against India too was good (in Cape Town).

On whether he felt sorry for South Africa

Itís never good for any team to be ousted via a tie... I was happy we wouldnít have to face South Africa in a later stage but, deep inside, one did feel bad... Iím human, after all... But, if I may add, South Africa were lucky to have forced a tie and would have lost had the match gone its normal course.

On whether he agrees the toss makes all the difference in Durban (in a day-night game)

Well, statistics show itís fifty-fifty... Seven ODIs have been won batting first, seven batting second... I donít think itís as big an issue as was made out. Conditions did change dramatically, during the India-England match but, clearly, that was an exceptional night. It will be interesting to learn from which side the wind blew...

On having played a big role in Aravinda de Silvaís recall last year

I got involved because I felt he had a contribution to make... While the Aravinda of old canít return, he has shown glimpses of his genius in this World Cup. He can pick the gaps, can be brought on in the first 15 overs and has a wealth of experience and knowledge. .. He has been preparing to bow out on a high.

On whether Sri Lanka could soon have to do without some of the most experienced players

Are you suggesting some are over the hill' No, Iím not worried. Sanath Jayasuriya has a few years, Chaminda Vaas has never been fitter... Still, thereís always talent to replace whoever... While experience has its place, a sprinkling of youngsters is needed. After all, if you have the same team marching at the spot all the time, you wonít get very far.

On what makes Muttiah Muralidharan tick

His drive for success... At times, that drive leaves him injured... Yet, he wonít change... One can go on and on talking about Murali but, to keep it short, itís his drive and hunger that has taken him to where he has reached.

On whether thereís a formula for success

There is, yes... Youíve got to have talent, youíve got to have character ó the player must have fibre in his body ó and youíve got to have a minimum level of fitness. Put all that together and you should have a success story on your hands.

On whether he will seek an extension after May

Look, it wouldnít be proper to discuss that in print.

On whether his functioning has been affected by the frequent changes in the Sri Lankan board

Continuity is always better. Beyond that, itís difficult for me to comment... Whatever the job, you must give the individuals a decent time to get on with it.

Finally, on whether coaches have a shelf life

(Laughs again) Iíve only known two types: Coaches who have been sacked and the ones about to be sacked!

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