Hathurusingha is Sri Lanka's coach © Getty Images
Hathurusingha is Sri Lanka’s coach © Getty Images

Chandika Hathurusingha on Sunday welcomed the challenge of coaching a deflated Sri Lanka back to form after their worst year in international cricket, marked by humiliating defeats and few wins. The freshly-appointed head coach took the bruised national side to Bangladesh over the  weekend ahead of their first international series of the year. Hathurusingha said Sri Lanka “have a lot to improve” but he was optimistic they could turn the corner after a dismal year of losses, leadership changes, injuries and scandal for the former World Cup winners.

“I am excited to take up the challenge. I am excited with the talent and skills available with my team now,” Hathurusingha, 49, told reporters Sunday.

A tri-nation one-day international tournament starts Monday with a contest between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Sri Lanka’s first match of the event is against Zimbabwe Wednesday, before they face Bangladesh two days later. It is familiar ground for Hathurusingha, who quit as Bangladesh head coach in the middle of their disastrous tour of South Africa to return to his native Sri Lanka.

The islanders are licking their wounds after their worst performance since 1987. Sri Lanka won just five of their 29 ODIs, with injury and scandals also plaguing the side on and off the field. Angelo Mathews stood down as captain in July amid the turmoil but just six months later was reappointed skipper for limited-overs cricket ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Sri Lanka were the final team to qualify for the tournament they won in 1996. Hathurusingha resigned as Bangladesh coach in October after a largely successful stint helping the side claim several high-profile wins and reach seventh in the ODI rankings. He ruled out being “emotionally attached” to his former side, but wished Bangladesh well in the tri-nation series.

“I worked with them closely and got to know them really well. At the same time, I want Sri Lanka to do well,” he said.

Mathews, 30, said he was pleased to return as skipper. “I never expected it, but I am looking forward to it,” he said.