By Tilak de Silva
I met the maestro Arjuna Ranatunga at his residence in Nugegoda. When he sat down opposite me in his usual garb of shirt and sarong, he looked so cool, calm and collected. He just gave me the impression that he really was on top of the world.
This was the man who won the World Cup for us in 1996. He is the one who had that extra cutting edge and was several cuts above the rest, when it came to leading Sri Lanka against the very best in the cricket world. Who else could see a loud mouth like Shane Warne eye to eye and even slamming him over the bowler’s (Warne’s) head, through his hands, down to the long-on boundary, during that World Cup campaign? Another significant feature on his glittering career was the fact that he came to the rescue of that bowling great of ours, Muttiah Muralithran. If not for Arjuna, intervening with the Aussie umpire and holding his ground against all odds, the cricketing career of the best off-spinner the world has ever seen would have being sadly curtailed then and there.
He mentioned, he had the gut feeling that Murali would be called during that series, but wasn’t sure when, somehow when that ugly scenario erupted, he had the presence of mind to keep his players inside the boundary line, keeping to the norms, and he himself, went out to consult Duleep Mendis and Roy Dias respectively. The end result was that he won the day for Sri Lanka.
SLC’s vested interests –
According to Arjuna, the SLC has nobody to take correct decisions, because they have vested interest with the IPL, the cancer, the AIDS —or call it what you may— of the great game of cricket. He further states that ICC, now a toothless tiger should be there to protect the game of cricket and not to be biased to a particular country. It is such a pity that the cricketing world is dancing with their knickers down to please the IPL, the Indian money-making machine in cricket. Arjuna has a special word of praise for Malcolm Speed who was once the head of the ICC.
This writer’s opinion is that soon the IPL will have mixed cricket teams, both men and women, displaying different strokes than the cricketing ones.
When asked for his opinion about a young cricketer who is the talk of the town, Kushal Janith Perera, Arjuna stated that the youngster should not be meddled with too many corrections in technique.
Perera may be self-thought and solely dependent on his keen eye and mere instinct, he was also quick to note that the young buck has already being gobbled up by the IPL (another talent bites the dust).
At this juncture it is worth mentioning how Arjuna progressed from his formative years as a young boy. Mr. Lionel Mendis, the famous coach showed him the rudiments of cricket and from then onwards, it was the well-known duo of coaches, namely P. W. Perera and Anura Polonowita who put the finishing touches to this magnificent product.
I can still recall, Arjuna as a 14-years-old, playing for Ananda College 1st Eleven against Royal College at Reid Avenue. He was not batting or bowling but was just fielding in the cover-point region and the way he ambled in towards the batsman when the bowler ran up to bowl, was something else. He exuded confidence even at that very young age and that was the beginning and the rest is history.
The Maestro concluded in saying that speaking fluent English is no criteria in judging one’s cricketing abilities or handling players for that
matter, due to our feeble education system, it is rather difficult to find talented players, who are conversant in English. There is a point in what he said.