Colombo, Feb 2: South Africa's Graham Ford today admitted that a "huge challenge" awaits him to rebuild the islanders team on the back of a series of retirements when he starts his second stint as Sri Lanka coach in the three-match away Twenty20 rubber against India this month.
Urging the Lankan fans to be patient, Ford said it was an honour for him to return to the island nation whom he coached from 2012 to 2014.
"For a coach, it is really a special group of lads to work with," Ford told reporters here a day after beginning his second stint with Sri Lanka cricket team.
"At the same time, I am very aware what a huge challenge it is. I think Sri Lanka cricket finds itself in the very early stages of a very important rebuilding stage. A lot of hard work needs to be done," he said.
"Everyone, the players, the selectors and the board must have patience," added Ford, who stepped down as coach of English county side Surrey last week. Ford, 55, faces an uphill task as Sri Lanka cricket is going through one of its most troubled times since getting Test status in 1981.
Sri Lanka team is undergoing a transition phase following the retirements of batting stalwarts Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara last year and to add to its woes spinner Rangana Herath and opener Tillakaratne Dilshan are expected to follow suit later this year.
Sri Lanka's impressive home record took a hit last year following series defeats against India and Pakistan. Sri Lanka then travelled to New Zealand, where they were outplayed in all forms of the game. The islanders are now down to seventh place in the Test rankings although they are third in the Twenty20 list.
Sri Lanka will travel to India for three Twenty20 Internationals, starting February 9 in Pune. The second match of the series will held in Ranchi on February 12 followed by the last match on February 14 in Visakhapatnam.
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) president Thilanga Sumathipala said that island nation should benefit from Ford's experience of English conditions, having coached Surrey and Kent.
"Graham knows English conditions very well and he will be able to prepare our team to win the next World Cup in Britain," Sumathipala said.
Ford is replacing Jerome Jayaratne, who had been interim coach since Marvan Atapattu quit last August.