𝐋𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐒𝐫𝐢 𝐋𝐚𝐧𝐤𝐚 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐬- 𝐌𝐲 𝐓𝐞𝐚𝐦𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬.
#𝟏 𝐀𝐫𝐣𝐮𝐧𝐚 𝐑𝐚𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐚
By Ravi Irugalbandara
First of a series of articles on sporting Legends, a trip down memory lane by Ravi Irugalbandara. A versatile sportsman of 80’s, Ravi captained St. Benedict’s College 1st XI at Cricket (84), Hockey and U 19 Football. He was selected to the Sri Lanka Hockey team whilst still at school, and also selected for the Sri Lanka U 19 Cricket pool too. Later he captained Old Bens Hockey when Benedictines were in fine form. He also played Cricket for SSC but his cricketing and hockey career was cut short due to a knee injury. He took up Hockey umpiring and reached the highest level as an international Class 1 umpire and officiated at many prestigious international tournaments such as Champions Trophy, Commonwealth Games, Asia Cup etc, He was also one-time chairman of the Sri Lanka Hockey Selection Committee. Ravi is now domiciled in Australia with his family and also his brother Andre who too represented St. Benedict’s College in Cricket and Hockey.
Arjuna Ranatunga is and will always be my all-time greatest Sri Lankan Sporting Hero. Considering purely on what he achieved for Sri Lanka Cricket and the country in general, I take absolute pleasure in naming him as #𝟏 𝐋𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐒𝐫𝐢 𝐋𝐚𝐧𝐤𝐚 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐬- 𝐌𝐲 𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐦𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬.
I consider myself privileged and blessed to have played alongside him as a teammate at Singhalese Sports Club (SSC) in the eighties.
I first met Arjuna in 1978 at the Ananda College vs St. Benedict’s College under-15 Cricket encounter at Ananda Mawatha. Many cricket experts and enthusiasts were talking about this stockily built teenager during this time as Arjuna was making headlines scoring centuries at will. He was hailed as a great prodigy and a player with unbelievable ability. Arjuna had made a record-breaking 354 the previous week against St. Mary’s College, Negombo and our team members along with our parents were curious and eager to see this exceptional talent. Arjuna certainly didn’t disappoint the crowd that had come to see the little record breaker and what an incredible show of batsmanship he did provide that day. He scored a brilliant century in record time and together with Jeevaka Weerasinghe, Arjuna made us mere spectators as the fielding was left for those who were outside the boundary lines. Though we have heard, it was the very first time we experienced “Power Hitting”. We were demoralized, but we were amazed by Arjuna’s incredible talent at such a young age. Arjuna scored another century against St.Benedict’s College in 1981, at Ananda Mawatha when both teams met in their traditional 1st XI encounter.
I was fortunate to join the prestigious SSC thanks to my late father and was so thrilled to get the opportunity and experience to see my childhood heroes Duleep Mendis, Roy Dias, Wettimuny brothers, Asantha De Mel etc practising alongside and providing us very valuable guidance. It was here I met Arjuna again, who had already established himself as a key player in the club. Arjuna quite naturally provided the leadership to a set of very promising schoolboy talent including me that had joined the club.
I was very fortunate to have played under the captaincy of Arjuna at various tournaments and what a brilliant leader he was. Arjuna knew exactly the strengths, weaknesses and capabilities of each of his players and would motivate and encourage them to give out their best every time they go out to the field. He was a no-nonsense and strict disciplinarian who ensured you kept your focus on the game at all times. He was a firm believer in “leading from the front” and always stood up for his players. I can think of many instances when Arjuna challenged or questioned the authorities on behalf of his players. A classic example of this is the famous Muttiah Muralitharan’s case.
One of the finest moments I will always cherish is when Arjuna led an inexperienced set of teenage cricketers including me to win the very popular annual BRC Six-a-side tournament in 1982. This annual tournament was one of the most looked forward to events and drew a large gathering of Cricket enthusiasts in the years gone by. SSC led admirably by Arjuna and comprising an all-schoolboy team stunned all other leading clubs that had several National players in their ranks to win the championship convincingly.
The heights Arjuna reached subsequently are well known. With 93 Test and 269 ODI matches, more than 5,000 test and 7,400 ODI runs to his credit, Arjuna will forever be remembered by all Sri Lankans for leading a gallant set of warriors to win the Cricket World Cup in 1996, a victory that changed the face of Sri Lanka Cricket forever. It is indeed fitting the winning run at the finals against Australia was scored by the legend himself.
Arjuna, I am truly honoured to have been your teammate and the great lessons learned. Thank you for all what you did for Sri Lanka Cricket.
Long live Arjuna, I wish you and your family well.
Born: 01st December 1963
Father – Reggie Ranatunga
Mother – Nandani Ranatunga
Siblings: Dammika Ranatunga, Prasanna Ranatunga, Nishantha Ranatunga, and Sanjeewa Ranatunga.
Education (College): Ananda College, Colombo
Batting and bowling styles: Left-handed batsman and a right arm medium pace bowler.
College Cricket: Played for Ananda College 1st XI 1978 -1982. Some of his teammates included former Sri Lanka Cricketers Brendon Kuruppu, Charith Senanayake, Dammika Ranatunga and Nishantha Ranatunga (in 1982)
His best at the Battle of the Maroons (against Nalanda College)
In 1979, at the 50th encounter, Arjuna took 5 for 29
in 1980, at the 51st encounter where Arjuna scored 75 runs not out in the 1st inning.
In 1982, Arjuna was touring with the Sri Lanka team in Pakistan when Ananda College beat Nalanda College by 07 wickets after 17 years under Deepal Dharmasekera.
Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1980 and 1982, and Runner Up in 1981. First Schoolboy Cricketer to receive this award twice. In 1988 one of his younger brothers Sanjeewa Ranatunga won the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, thus becoming the only pair of brothers to win this accolade to date.
Played for Sri Lanka under-20 against India under-20 in 1980, and scored 128 not out in the 1st match.
Club Cricket: Played for Sinhalese Sports Club, Captained 1987-1988, 1996-1999. Winner of P. Saravanamutthu Trophy in 1997
Made his test debut on 17 February 1982 against England at the age of 18 in Sri Lanka’s first-ever test match at the P. Sara Oval. He scored 50 on his test debut and also became the first Sri Lankan to score a half-century in test cricket. He also shared a 99-run partnership with Ranjan Madugalle for the fourth wicket in Sri Lanka’s inaugural test match.
He along with Asanka Gurusinha became the first pair of Sri Lankan batters to bat out the entire day of a test match for Sri Lanka with an unbroken partnership of 240 runs on a wicketless final day of the match against Pakistan at the P. Sara Oval in 1986 which also eventually led to a draw. Ranatunga ended up with a career-best knock of unbeaten 135 while Asanka remained undefeated on 116 as Sri Lanka posted 323/3 at the end of the play on Day 5.
Ranatunga went on to captain Sri Lanka in 1988, his reign lasted for 11 years until 1999.
He led the team to win the 1996 World Cup and he scored the winning runs for Sri Lanka in the final and remained unbeaten on 47.
He also captained Sri Lanka to triumph at the 1997 Asia Cup at home defeating India in the final to lift their second Asia Cup title and the first after 11 years.
Under his captaincy, Sri Lanka secured the first-ever historic test win on English soil against England and the first-ever test series win for Sri Lanka in England against England in 1998.
In 1999, he was chosen as one of five Wisden Cricketers of the Year.
Two of his younger brothers Dammika Ranatunga and Sanjeewa Ranatungamade their test debuts while Arjuna was leading the side. Dammika made his test debut against Australia in 1989-90, the first instance for Sri Lanka cricket whereas a cricketer had made his international debut for a team captained by his brother. Sanjeewa Ranatunga made his test debut in 1994 against Pakistan.
In June 2000, Ranatunga played in Sri Lanka’s 100th Test match, becoming the only player to represent his country in their first and hundredth Test.
He retired from the game, in 2000 playing his last Test inning against South Africa at his home ground S.S.C ending a career of two decades of International Cricket.
Played – 93
Batting -Innings 155, Runs 5105, Not Outs 12, Highest 135*, Average 35.69, 50’s 38, 100’s 04.
Bowling – Innings 56, 16 wickets, Best 2 for 17
Test Captaincy record: 56 matches, 12 wins, 19 losses, 25 draws.
Ranatunga’s highest Test batting score of 135 not out was made against Pakistan, Colombo, 1985–1986
His best Test bowling effort of 2 for 17 came against New Zealand, Kandy, 1983–1984
Matches – 269
Batting: Innings 255, Runs 7456, Not outs 47, Best 131*, Average 35.84, Strike Rate 77.91, 50’s 49, 100’s 04.
Bowling: Innings 135, 79 wickets, Best 4 for 14
ODI Captaincy record: 193 matches, 89 wins, 95 losses, 01 tied. O4th Cricketer in the all time list of Most Matches as Captain.
Best batting performance was against India, 131 not out at R. Premadasa Stadium in 1997.
He has the record for the most runs scored by any batsman in ODI history at number 5 position (4675 runs) and also the first to score over 4500 ODI runs when batting at no 5 position