Ford steps down as Sri Lanka cricket coach

Sri Lanka cricket coach Graham Ford speaks at a press conference in Colombo on May 17, 2017 ahead of his side's ICC Champions Trophy Tournament campaign in England (AFP Photo/Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI) (AFP/File)

Sri Lanka's cricket coach Graham Ford has quit, officials said Saturday, midway through a 45-month contract and just two weeks after the team's early exit from the Champions Trophy.

Sri Lanka's cricket board said the 56-year-old South African was ending his second stint with the team after a "decision arrived at mutually."

No immediate replacement was announced. Sri Lanka will play a home series of five ODI matches and one Test against Zimbabwe from the end of this month.

Ford, who was previously with Sri Lanka from 2012 to 2014, had said he faced a huge rebuilding task when he returned to the team in February last year, when the islanders had dropped down the rankings.

Sri Lanka failed to reach the semi-finals of this month's eight-team Champions Trophy in England, and there have been recriminations with the country's sports minister accusing the players of being too fat.

"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," Ford said in a statement issued by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).

After Ford took the job in February last year, Sri Lanka whitewashed their three-Test home series against then world number one Australia.

Under Ford, Sri Lanka also won a triangular series in Zimbabwe also involving West Indies. He had been due to coach them until the next World Cup in 2019.

"He joined us at a time when we were quoted by the ICC as being on the 'verge of suspension' and at a time when things were volatile and uncertain," said SLC chief Thilanga Sumathipala.

"Ford had faith in us and has given us his fullest support. Ford epitomises the character of cricket as a true gentleman, and we are indeed sorry to see him go."

Ford, who has also coached South Africa, Surrey and Kent, ended his first spell in Sri Lanka in 2014 when his two-year contract expired.