Sportstar archives: Cherish winning World Cup the most, says Arjuna Ranatunga

In this 2000 interview, former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga talks about retirement, the game's state of affairs in his country and more.

Ranatunga led Sri Lanka to its only 50-over World Cup win in 1996.   -  V.V. Krishnan

"I never used cricket as a medium to gain popularity," said Arjuna Ranatunga. "I always had Sri Lankan cricket in my heart and mind," the veteran added

The 'Smiling Buddha' retired from international cricket at the end of the third Test against South Africa at his home ground, the Sinhalese Sports Club.

In an exclusive chat, he goes down memory lane.

Excerpts:

Please look back at your career of almost 20 years in international cricket.

I think I have performed reasonably well. Eighteen years of international cricket is not an
easy task. It is a very long time. On the whole I'd say I have served both my country and my team
to the best of my ability.

You have scaled many peaks during your tenure as captain. Inclusive of winning the 1996 World Cup. Imran Khan, Clive Lloyd and Mark Taylor quit when at the helm, weren't you tempted to do so?

I never used cricket as a medium to gain popularity. I have always believed that serving one's country, in whatever capacity, as long as one can, is always the best policy. It is a known fact that both the Sri Lankan Board and the then selection committees wanted me as captain. In addition I also felt that I was doing a fairly good job as skipper. I always wanted Sri Lankan cricket to prosper and not cheap publicity by quitting at a time when I could serve my country more.

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Quitting the game must have been a very tough decision?

It was tough, indeed. Particularly after being associated with the game for all of 18 years. But then, all good things must come to an end. Therefore, I felt it was appropriate to retire after the South African series.

At the end of it how satisfied are you as a player, considering your contributions to the game for Sri Lanka?

I am very satisfied. Had I wanted to play in a selfish manner I could have achieved much more. However, my priorities have always been with my country and the team. Therefore, I feel very satisfied about my contributions to the game for Sri Lanka.

You have always been concerned with regard to the development of cricket in the country. Having said this, how satisfied are you with the current progress?

I feel that a lot more needs to be done with regard to the development of the game in the country, particularly the rural areas. They need more facilities and the BCCSL has a great deal of responsibility in this area.

You have called it a day. Roshan Mahanama retired before you. Players of the calibre of Aravinda de Silva and Hashan Tillekeratne are struggling to get into the side. With quite a few youngsters around now, do you believe Sri Lankan cricket can progress at the rate it did before?

We do have some fine, young talented cricketers in the team. As for Hashan and Aravinda, I strongly believe they still have a lot to offer. Talking about the youngsters I feel they are doing extremely well. But I don't think that just because somebody gets 40 or 50 runs in a side game or a three-day game, it would make him an automatic choice for the Test side. This is because there is a big difference between Test and first class cricket. Any youngster wanting to play Test cricket should be willing to learn to adjust himself to the greater demands of the game at the highest level.

We have observed that you are a person who always stood by your teammates. The best example would be the Muralitharan affair in Australia. Is it your personality?

I never played for myself. As I told you earlier, I could have achieved much more on the person-
al front had I decided to be selfish. However, I am happy that I stood up and defended a fellow player and also protected the dignity of my country.

Ranatunga stepped up for his teammate Muralitharan after he was adjudged to be chucking during a match against England in 1998. - THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

You were the first Sri Lankan to make a Test half-century. Please recall the moment?

Well, nobody expected me to score those runs. But as a youngster I decided to make full use of the great opportunity I got. I must confess that as an 18-year-old I didn't know what pressure was all about and as such I was able to enjoy myself to the fullest.

Did you ever aspire to lead the country?

Never. It happened by chance. However, I must say that I learnt a lot from Duleep Mendls and Madugalle while being their deputy.

Even in your last Test, we felt you were batting as good as ever. In fact, you were looking far more relaxed after being relieved of the captaincy. Your comments.

I have always wanted to be aggressive. But as captain I was compelled to change to suit the needs of the team.

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Which was the most unforgettable moment?

Winning the World Cup in 1996 is the moment I cherish the most.

Which was the most difficult situation you faced?

None in particular. I have faced many, and I did it as it came.

Who was the most difficult bowler you have played?

Wasim Akram, without doubt.

Finally, what would be your message to your many fans?

Well, I must say there were many who supported me right through my career. Not just in Sri Lanka, but around the world. I have experienced their support particularly when I was down. I am truly thankful and indebted to them all.

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