Sportstar archives: Roshan Mahanama on batting with Jayasuriya

Former Sri Lanka batsman Roshan Mahanama recalls the 576-run stand with Sanath Jayasuriya against India and the autobiography 'Retired Hurt'.

Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama, who set a new World record partnership with a stand of 576 against India, being attended to by physio Alex Kontouri.   -  FILE PHOTO/V.V. KRISHNAN

Sometimes, when it seems as if fate is going out of the way to smother you, the thought occurs if it is worthwhile continuing to struggle. In an eventful career. Roshan Mahanama, the former Sri Lankan captain, has gone through many such situations. But he steeled himself and calmly set out with courage to lace the ordeals.

The other day, as he chatted while watching the Gopalan Trophy game at the Chidambaram Stadium (he was the coach of the Colombo side which played Tamil Nadu), Mahanama, answering the query whether he had any regrets, said there was none at all.

"I wasn't given a good farewell, as I had a couple of years of cricket in me but then, all good things must come to an end," said Mahanama, who played in 52 Tests and 213 limited overs internationals in a career spanning close to 13 years.

"I like to remember the good things, the nice times we had as a team. Look, I owe what I  am to cricket. I am proud to have been a member of the side which won the 1996 World Cup. I am a joint world record holder (576 for the second wicket with Jayasuriya against India in 1997-98) and among the very few who have held over a 100 catches in LOIs. It feels good."

Mahanama touches upon his cricketing experiences and much more in this interview.

Excerpts:

You have batted in all positions between one and six for Sri Lanka. What kind of adjustments did you have to make while batting at various positions?

More than technical, it was mental. It is extremely tough to settle into a gameplan if you are shuffled up and down. So the best way is to go out and play according to the situation. It was very tough mentally, especially when playing away, where a lot of factors are involved.

Which according to you is the high point of your career?

The World Cup triumph in 1996 was by far the most memorable moment of my career. Being part of the victorious side is a very special moment of my life. Actually, it was a moment which the whole country rejoiced.

From left: Hasan Tillakaratne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Roshan Mahanama, Sanath Jayasuriya and Asanka Gurusinha take a break during a training session on the eve of World Cup final in 1996.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

The 576 that (Jayasuriya (340) and you (225) put on for the second wicket against India was obviously a Herculean effort, but what you do you think is the primary requisite to play an innings of the length that you two played?

Concentration and fitness are the primary requisites. I would say. You need the powers of concentration to stay focussed for that length of time. I had to concentrate doubly because my head was on the selectorial chopping block at that point of time.

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Was cricket only a passion to you from the start and does it remain so even now?

Cricket was and will always remain a passion to me. In fact, when I retired from international cricket in 1999 in a huff I had told my friends that I would never go to a cricket ground thereafter. I realised soon enough that cricket is an integral part of my life. It is more than just a game to me.

You played a season of club cricket in Australia after your retirement. Is it really as competitive as it is made out to be?

I played the lower division league for the fun of it. But even there I was impressed by the seriousness and commitment the Aussies show. They are aggressive, play to win and go all out. The thirst to play good cricket and win is developed from the grassroot level.

Being the Head Coach and Manager of the Sri Lankan 'A' team and development squad is obviously a big job. How are you going about it?

I've always looked at everything in life as a challenge. I played my cricket hard and here I am back to the game I love, in a different role though. This is a full-time job, my first one as coach; though I've done a bit of coaching here and there before. It has been a month since I've taken over. Coaching the A' team is different in the sense that you are handling young men and at this level it is about giving them technical inputs, slight modifications. It is mostly about man-management.

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It was you who helped set up and manage Sri Lanka's first-ever Players Association. You must have felt the need for one obviously. How did it feel to deliver the baby?

It was back in 1989-90 that the players first felt the need for an Association. Ravi Ratnayake was the moving force behind it. The whole thing fizzled out after he migrated to Australia. In 1999, we thought it imperative to have a Players Association. We needed it to hold on to young cricketers. Look, we needed to give them security financial and emotional. It was more for the domestic cricketers, for we were losing out the young ones otherwise. It is not a Union. We have been recognised by FICA (world body for Players Association) and we hope to be recognised by the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka in the near future.

And finally to your autobiography, Retired Hurt. Must have been a satisfying affair to write one. Obviously, the furore created by the Aussie media with regard to your reference to the particular incident involving McGrath and Jayasuriya was unwanted. Your views?

They lost the focus of the chapter. Right through it I said good things about Australian cricket. Look, you can't take away the fact that our tour of Australia in 1995 was filled with controversy. Actually, I was talking about how the series of events saw us harden up and ultimately win the World Cup in 1996. This was one of it. I printed the book in both English and Sinhala. I released the English version of the book in both Sri Lanka and Australia, the latter for the sole reason that Ken, who wrote the book for me, is an Australian. The Australian press and players said that the reference that I made was a gimmick, a commercial exercise, and all that, to sell the book. It wasn't. For I had printed just 2,000 books and I could well have sold them to my friends and fans.

(This interview was first published in Sportstar magazine on 10.11. 2001)

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