Romesh Kaluwitharana: ‘They played Twenty20 in 1996 itself’

The former Sri Lankan wicket-keeper batsman spoke while in Mumbai to launch a Twenty20 tourney.

Romesh Kaluwitharana...“IPL is giving opportunities to players to express themselves.”   -  The Hindu Archives

Sri Lanka’s former wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana was well-known for providing his team the early impetus with the bat alongside the equally enterprising Sanath Jayasuriya. The pair scored 3240 runs in 105 One-Day Internationals. Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Kaluwitharana was acquainted with the slam-bang Twenty20 format well before it entered global consciousness.

He said, “They played Twenty20 in 1996 itself. IPL is giving opportunities to players to express themselves.”

The 48-year-old was here to launch the SAI Mumbai Masters T20 League for non-professionals in the 33-plus age group, promoted by Jwala Sports Foundation. The foundation has played a role in the development of Mumbai’s budding star Prithvi Shaw.

Kaluwitharana said he was involved in coaching after his retirement and that international stars Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne and Niroshan Dickwella were coached by him when he was with the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team. “I retired because I found out that Kumar Sangakkara was a good gloveman,” he said.

Another veteran, former India opener Wasim Jaffer, is also supporting the event. Jaffer, however, is still lighting up the cricket field with his consistent run-making. He has the most career runs in the Ranji Trophy.

‘Testing wicket’ at Cape Town

Jaffer, who had scored 116 against South Africa in the Cape Town Test in January, 2007, had a few observations on the ongoing Test series in the rainbow nation.

“India was not outplayed in the first Test last week. I think we were a little unfortunate with the kind of wicket we got. Probably one good innings or partnership would have made us go on top in the series. But you have to give it to the South African bowlers as well. It was a very testing wicket, even their batsman failed. They play on these kind of wickets all the time and yet they failed. We were in the game all the while. But this (Centurion) wicket where the second match is happening, we made a very good comeback on the first day evening when (Hashim) Amla got run out and we got six wickets. We have bowled them out, now we need to bat really well, the wicket will suit our batsman,” Jaffer said.

Jaffer defended the team selections made for the first two Tests. “You have got to leave those decisions to the captain and the coach; they are very experienced players and they won't do any selection to harm the side. They know what they are doing and you have got to respect them; they are answerable to the team as well as the whole nation. You have got to leave it till the end of the series to ask questions; they are the once who make the decisions and you got to respect them.”

It will be a very different ball game in Mumbai, though. Eight teams will take part in the league set to start from Sunday, January 21.