The architect of Sri Lanka's famous Test series win against Australia, head coach Graham Ford, has left the team, Sri Lanka Cricket have confirmed.
Ford had spent 15 months in charge of the Sri Lankan team and leaves a full two years ahead of schedule, having originally been appointed to guide the team through the 2019 World Cup in England.
His tenure comes to a premature end – albeit one that was by mutual consent according to a release from Sri Lanka Cricket – after the team failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy in England.
That campaign saw them thrashed by South Africa by 96 runs before turning the tables and upsetting subcontinent rivals India by seven wickets. But shoddy fielding saw them lose to eventual champions Pakistan in a thriller to exit the tournament early.
Ford had previously coached Sri Lanka for two years in 2012-2014, taking them to the final of the World T20 tournament they hosted in his first year in charge. He had been a head coach at Surrey before re-joining a rebuilding Sri Lanka side following the retirements of legends Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena.
Ford's departure comes just days before Sri Lanka's next international engagement, a one-day series with Zimbabwe starting in Galle on Friday.
"It's been a privilege to work with these talented young men over the past 15 months. Their passion for the sport is inspiring, as is indeed this nation's," Ford said in a statement released by Sri Lanka Cricket.
"Sri Lanka has grown on me, and although we've made the decision to part ways where coaching is concerned, she will always have a little piece of my heart.
"I look forward to sitting up on that beautiful Fort down in Galle and taking in a bird's eye view of Sri Lanka's special brand of cricket – this time without having to chew my nails to the bone.
"I wish Sri Lanka Cricket and the boys the very best, and I must offer a word of advice to the young men – Always believe in yourself, believe in your team, and play from your heart."
Sri Lanka famously swept the then world No.1 ranked Australian Test team 3-0 in mid-2016. They also won a Twenty20 series in Australia earlier this year, albeit against an Australia side missing several leading players.
Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala thanked Ford for his "invaluable contribution" to the country.
"He joined us at a time where we were quoted by the ICC as being on the 'verge of suspension' and at a time where things were volatile and uncertain, Ford had faith in us & has given us his fullest support," Sumathipala said.
"This was a decision arrived at mutually after careful consideration and deliberation and we are both confident of its propriety.
"Ford epitomises the character of cricket as a true gentleman, and we are indeed sorry to see him go."
Sangakkara recently hailed Ford as "one of the best coaches in the world".
"Anyone who has worked with him since the days South Africa were top of their game or to the Surrey boys, or to Kent, he has been the reason why so many young teams in transition – the word we use – have done so well over the years," Sangakkara told Cricbuzz.
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"Sri Lanka have the talent and they have the right man in charge. It's time to allow them to freely go around doing what they can do.
"That is 'Fordy' to coach cricket and players to play cricket. If you let them be in charge of doing their jobs, without too much interference, it's going to work."