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Tom Moody relives tentative first steps as Sri Lanka head coach

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Tom Moody recalled the time a young Lasith Malinga completely failed to understand his messages in one-on-one discussions during his tenure as the head coach of the Sri Lanka cricket team.

Moody was appointed as the Sri Lanka head coach in 2005, a year after a 20-year-old Malinga had made his international debut. The duo had multiple discussions regarding the bowler’s development but four months into the job, Moody was informed by Mahela Jayawardene that Malinga couldn’t understand ‘one word’ of what he said.

“Having had the experience with Sri Lanka in the earlier parts of my coaching career, I learnt very quickly that communication was important with regards to the message you deliver and if it’s understood,” he said while in discussion with Harsha Bhogle on Cricbuzz.

“I’ll give you a brief story on that Sri Lankan experience. This is a very young Lasith Malinga we’re talking about, back in 2005. I remember having one on one discussions with all the players around, their roles and how we are looking to develop them, thinking that I’m doing all the right things.

“And I remember, it would have been four months into these robust discussions, week in, week out, Mahela Jayawardene came up to me and said, ‘Hey coach, what you are doing is brilliant with this one on one stuff. But just with Malinga, he hasn’t understood one word that you have said.’”

This episode helped the Australian understand the importance of communication in coaching as he went on to use players who were confident with English in his teams as translators.

“The Sri Lankans and the Indians are so polite and you just get these [nods] and I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, the message is going through,’” he continued. “But it was a very important lesson for me very early on. So when it comes to coaching in that situation, I’ve quite often used someone.

“When I know that there’s a player that hasn’t got the confidence with English, I have used a local player to help support me with the messaging because the last thing you want to do is alienate that player and make them feel that they don’t belong because they more than belong, they are absolutely critical to the fabric of the side.”

Moody made an instant impact as the Sri Lanka head coach, leading the team to the 2007 World Cup final, but resigned from the job soon after.

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