former Peterite 1st XI Cricket Captain (1993) and Sri Lanka Test and ODI batsman now turned International Cricket Commentator speaks candidly about his life and ambitions.
Russel Premakumaran Arnold
Date of Birth:
25th October 1973
St. Peter’s College, Colombo 04.
International cricket commentator
Cricket Career statistics
St. Peter’s College 1st XI (1991-1993), Sri Lanka (1997-2007), Chennai Superstars, ICL World XI, Nondescripts Cricket Club (NCC)
School’s 1st XI debut:
Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (R.Preamadasa Stadium), Apr 19-23, 1997
South Africa v Sri Lanka at Lahore, Nov 6, 1997
Favourite food dishes:
This happened while commentating live on TV on a Sri Lanka Vs Pakistan One Day International. Sri Lanka who were chasing a victory target at that stage had to score 50 more runs to win with plenty of overs left and they were only 3 wickets down. I noticed, on the TV screen a crowd shot where a Pakistani supporter was praying. I made a comment on air ‘I don’t think prayers gonna help Pakistan today’. Soon, Sri Lanka started to lose wickets and they lost the match by 5 runs. I had to eat my words, Pakistan Cricket supporters started bombarding me with messages and it was pretty embarrassing. Some still continues to send messages on this.
Another incident while I was playing for Sri Lanka; on an England tour (1999), we were playing Hampshire County team at Southampton in a tour match and funnily and embarrassingly I got out twice within half an hour.
Birth of my son and the daughter
Spending time at Quadrangle, your entry into Cricket?
I really enjoyed my growing up years at St. Peter’s and it was a gradual process for me when entering into Cricket. Lots of my experiences and memories are at College Grounds from my early childhood as we used to play during intervals, see seniors play matches, not only Cricket but Rugger too during school time or after school and of course the ground was used by other schools, especially the girls’ schools in and around College, but let’s not get in details shall we? Most of my free time was spent here at St. Peter’s and they were the best times of my life. St. Peter’s my 2nd home. I was a slow starter at Under 13 level, I was small in stature too so I couldn’t compete with ‘Big Boys’ as most of my batch mates or the team mates were far ahead of me, in terms of their standards. I think I matured only after playing Under 17 and I hit the peak in 1992, my 2nd year in 1st XI cricket. But I never dreamt of playing for Sri Lanka or even for the 1st XI. I took it one step at a time, playing for the moment and enjoying every moment.
Support you got from family?
I have two elder brothers and a sister, and I lost my father when I was really small. My mother brought us up all by herself. It was hard work for her and not easy to manage three kids, guide us and also to attend to our needs. She was right behind us and was always there for us. When I was a young boy my grandfather (mother’s father) helped me as he used to take me for training and was helping me a lot. With God’s blessing, my mother did a wonderful job and I can say she was instrumental in what we have achieved today in life. Looking back and when comparing to present day challenges we face as parents and adults in the society and raising kids, she did so much and I do not know how I can repay her.
Memories of 1st XI schools seasons?
I played in patches during my 1st season in 1991 and then I cemented my place in 1992 side under Asanga Perera where I scored 5 centuries and notched up 1400 runs in the season. The best inning being 153 against St. Thomas’ College at Mt. Lavinia. Then we went on to win the President’s Trophy 50 over tournament in 1992, under lights and we beat St. Sebastian’s College in the finals. It was an experience as a school boy, playing in front of a big crowd, under lights and with a live TV telecast. I then captained the College 1st XI in 1993 but couldn’t play the full quota of matches as I was touring with Sri Lanka Under 19. I ended that season with 900 odd runs.
Your entry into National Side?
I had to work hard, had to be consistent and I was kept hanging there and taking every opportunity given. I knew it’s not going to be easy and patiently waited for the time. I toured England with the Sri Lanka Under 19 team where my College Captain, Asanga Perera was the captain of the tour side. We did well and I also performed well. Then I was included in the ‘A’ side but never managed to make it straight to the National Team. It was a bit slow and I needed to work hard. Even at NCC when I started it was a massive step up as I had to work really hard as I was in the Division 2 team and then I had to bat really well and score runs to get into ‘A’ team in Diviion 1. Which I did. Then the moment came, unexpectedly when the Pakistan Test team heading back after their tour of Australia came to Sri Lanka for a short test tour.
I was playing decent Club cricket leading up to this but nothing exceptional than my previous seasons. The Pakistan team was given a tour match before the Test match and I was in the squad but not in the playing XI. On the match day, the scheduled opener Chaminda Mendis pulled out, and the selectors looked for another opener Chandika Hathurusinghe and they couldn’t contact him. So the Management asked me to open. Pakistan had a fantastic bowling attack with Wasim and Waquar and another speedstar whom I forget. I was given a life as I was caught off a no ball at slips early in my inning and then I started to focus and then runs started to flow. I went on to score 140 runs against this quality bowling attack. That I believed opened the eyes of the selectors. Two days later, on the eve of the 1st test against Pakistan, during the net session Sri Lankan opener Roshan Mahanama unfortunately got injured when Sajeewa de Silva bowled a yorker. Selectors then called me up and that’s how I got my break to represent Sri Lanka National team. If not my 140 would’ve been soon forgotten. That’s how the life was and I had to wait until my next opportunity comes in the pecking order. However, every time I was picked for a tour match I used to score, not only that I was taken as the extra batsman on tours. I made sure that I used the opportunities and score a hundred on these tours. In 1999, I managed to find a permanent place in the test side.
My only ODI hundred, which was against Zimbabwe was a special one. In that match we basically lost our way as top the order collapsed and with the tail-enders I manage to build partnerships and scored a century and we won it. Also in 1999, in the tour of England I scored 200 against Somerset and my century against England at Old Trafford is also a special one.
Favourite batting position in the lineup?
I grew up as an opener at school level and then in tests I used to open and I enjoyed that. However I have played from No.01 to No.7 positions epending on the circumstances. I think in 9 test matches I went in as opener, I averaged 50 odd . I did not get many opportunities as an opener at test level. Then in 50 overs I was used as a middle order batsman, at No.06 a different role and I enjoyed that too.
What made you retire from Cricket?
I was 33 by then and made a return to the Sri Lanka Squad after sometime (for the 2007 World Cup) and felt that it was the right time for me to step down. At International level to compete, you need to work hard and it requires plenty of commitment and some sacrifices too. Looking back, I’m happy I made that decision as I have a family and two kids to look after. So no regrets.
How you did you meet your wife?
I grew up in Frazer Avenue, Dehiwela and had a bunch of friends from the neighbourhood. We used to play Cricket down the Road regularly. It was fun and we used to play some serious cricket out there. My wife Sonali was known from childhood, she used to come and hang around with us. She once used to sell some cool drinks to those who were playing outside. This was to raise funds for a School activity. I doubt whether she managed to raise funds because most of the time we used to drink them free.
Your entry into the Comm Box?
Well , I never dreamt that I would take up commentaries. It was first one gentleman by the name of James Rego who invited me to take up match commentaries; this was while I was on a tour to India. Though I didn’t give it a thought at that time, after retiring I took it when opportunity was extended. it was not easy at the beginning, with voice training and plenty of reparations. But now, I’m enjoying it. It’s fun and at the same time it has its good and bad. It’s not like you are playing out there. It’s totally different and at times when nothing happens in the middle, you tend to get bored. So you need to keep your interest high as well as audience’s by making the commentaries interesting. It’s a good experience, travelling around and spending time with interesting people.
Your future plans?
I’m taking things as it comes. I believe God has a plan for everything so I do not want to rush. Throughout my life, it was a gradual process. I am really happy with what I have achieved. It is far better than what I could have planned or hoped for. It’s about enjoying every moment of life and my family. I have a son and daughter, currently we are living in Australia. My son Akash plays a bit of Cricket there and he likes Sri Lanka and want someday to play Cricket for St. Peter’s. So, you’ll never know, it can happen in the future that we will be back in Sri Lanka again.
Your favourite sports, other than Cricket?
I’m a big fan of rugby, including Peterite Rugby as I follow the College team from where ever I am. In addition I follow both the Rugby Union and Rugby League tournaments in Australia. We got several Rugby League teams in Sydney with my favourite being Tigers. When it comes to Rugby Union, I love the All Blacks as I’ve been following them from school days and Manchester United is my favourite Football team from EPL. Given a choice between Cricket, Football and Rugby to watch at any time, I will pick Rugger over other two sports.