Dubai: Romesh Kaluwitharana, who paired with Sanath Jayasuriya in the 1996 World Cup to give eventual champions Sri Lanka the blazing starts, is happy to see so many entertainers in the game today. It was their pinch-hitting that revolutionised the game and paved the way to the now popular Twenty20 format.

Speaking to Gulf News, the diminutive wicketkeeper-batsman who was in Dubai to conduct a high performance coaching programme at the Desert Cubs Cricket Academy annual cricket fiesta, said: “I am so happy to see so much of entertainment in cricket. Jayasuriya and I were lucky to get that opportunity and do it together for Sri Lanka and the whole world at a time when cricket was a little boring. That was a new phase and eventually led to T20 format being invented after our style of play. I am proud at having played a part in it.”

When asked why cricket has seen so few of their kind after their departure, Kaluwitharana said: “The game has changed a lot now. New rules have come in and people have figured out how to stop such hitting now. Some are good at hard hitting and are successful in it but everybody cannot do what others do and that is the beauty of the game. With the advent of T20, the whole game has become more entertaining and it is what people like to see. It brings joy to the people within a short time. T20 is one of the formats that can compete in the Olympics as well.”

Kaluwitharana’s strokes during the ‘96 World Cup had stunned many but today innovative shots have become a must. “Innovative shots are getting really popular because shots like reverse sweep and Dilscoop gives more opportunity for the batsmen to get runs. In today’s cricket it is important to have such kind of shots in your bag but you need to practice it during nets and not do it rightaway in a match.”

Asked what quality that one should have to become a good hitter, Kaluwitharana said: “I think for a player to get quick runs you need to have a good shot selection. A good cricketer is also one who has more number of shots to offer but doing the shot selection rightly is the greatness of a good player.”

Kaluwitharana is not worried over Sri Lankan cricket struggling at the moment, especially after the retirement of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. “Remember that every era is different. Before 1996 World Cup, there were times we were not doing well. All teams go through such phases. Sri Lanka cricket can get better because we are not lacking in talented players.”

However, Kaluwitharana feels that captain plays a big role in grooming players. Referring to his World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, he said: “It is important to have a captain that players can look up to like we had Arjuna years ago. To have a good captain, whom players respect and want to give 100 per cent to him is important. During my playing days there wouldn’t be anything that we did not want to do for our captain. We used to even sacrifice our place in the team to give opportunity to another player that will be of benefit to the team.”

What is his message to UAE’s budding cricketers? “I am happy at seeing the programme being done by Presley Polonnowita (Head Coach Desert Cubs) and his coaches. This academy has a great environment for the players to enjoy the game and carry it to next level. The children have to understand that this game is not just a bat and a ball game but this game teaches you on life too. It is important for children play this game than focus on gadgets like mobile. Everyone must mix, make friends and enjoy playing together. Give 100 per cent, but work hard and be a good human being in future.”

What is the lesson that cricket taught Kaluwitharana? “Cricket taught me lot of things but what I learnt most is how to respect others and compete to bring more glory to my country.”