UAE Desert Cubs coach keen to mentor youth at national level

Coaching is a passion for the former Lankan pacer Priyantha

A former Sri Lanka fast bowler KG Priyantha has ambitions of coaching at national level after building a successful career as a mentor for youngsters at a leading academy in the UAE.

Priyantha has been in the coaching staff of Desert Cubs Cricket Academy (DCCA) founded by another former Sri Lanka international Presley Polonnowita for the past six years.

“I’m doing coaching like not like a job. I love to teach young cricketers to help reach a good standard. In future I want to go to an associate nation and coach juniors from the age of 19. I love coaching juniors because I want them to have a good foundation,” said Priyantha, 48, who has handled children between age 5 and 19 and is the under 11 coach at DCCA.

“I get satisfaction of seeing them improve. I can impart game-plan scenarios with my experience and as a specialised bowling coach can improve actions of fast bowlers in particular,” added Priyantha who did his ICC Level 1 certification in Sri Lanka and the Level 11 Australian Advance coaches course in UAE in 2012.

“I love to work with development squads similar to what we do at Desert Cubs. We have elite programmes for good players and specialised batting and bowling coaching programmes,” said Priyantha who spoke of his passion for coaching, the highs and lows in his career, and his future goals.

Kapugama Geeganage Priyantha was a gangly fast bowler who could swing the ball naturally with his unique style of delivery on the wrong foot.

Having represented Sri Lanka in the inaugural Under 19 World Cup in Australia in 1989, he should have made a natural progression to the senior national team.

But the lad from southern city of Matara played in an era when opportunities were few and far between while new ball bowlers Ashantha de Mel, Ravi Ratnayake and Rumesh Ratnayake were at their peak.

His fortunes could have changed if he had accepted Sri Lanka skipper Arjuna Ranatunga’s invitation to join a leading Colombo club SSC.

“I had just joined Air Force. If I had played for SCC at the time, I would have definitely played for Sri Lanka,” said Priyantha wistfully.

Along with Rohan Weerakkody and Ravi Rajapakse, Air Force selected three top schoolboys to beef up their side which even beat SSC in the P Sara tournament.

Ironically, it virtually ended what should have been a blossoming career for Priyantha as the call of duty and a back injury ended his dreams of representing Sri Lanka.

This was before he was overlooked for Sri Lanka A’s tour of Pakistan for a division two player in 1985.

“Despite doing well in the trials, I was not selected for the Pakistan tour. I was in the national pool when Duleep Mendis was captain for the Australia tour but could not make the final 14. I was also on the verge of being selected for a tournament in Sharjah,” recalled Priyantha at the missed opportunities of playing for Sri Lanka.

Shrugging off these disappointments, his career took a new turn as he got an early release from the Air Force and headed to the UAE in 1996.

He represented Sri Lankan teams like Lanka Lions, Nawa Lanka and Frico Lions in the UAE before starting coaching in 2000.

He was a coach at ICC Academy in Dubai for a year and headed MaxTalent Academy before joining the Desert Cubs where he has been attached since 2010.

Priyantha would also love to serve in Sri Lanka if the opportunity beckons.

“We have to train young blood. New players have to be given time. They can’t perform miracles but there are some outstanding players,” he said.

“We need wicket taking bowlers. Our fast bowlers bowl good line and length but swing and bite is missing. (Chaminda) Vaas took wickets by swinging,” pointed out Priyantha who bagged 14 wickets in a first class match and five-for 10 times in his career, in addition to snaring nine wickets in an innings twice at age group level.

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