My first sighting of Arjuna Ranatunga was in the S.S. C. dressing room sometime in 1982 – twenty five years ago. His name was discussed some years before, for scoring a triple century in an under fifteen game and it must be said that in those days only names of outstanding schoolboy cricketers were talked of.
He had had a couple of good seasons at school level and some senior members of the club had persuaded him to become a member and the formalities were sorted out. On a weekend when a position was available and Ananda College had no game Arjuna made his first appearance at the club to commence an illustrious, giant killing career. Physical appearance often is a first impression. Here was an eighteen year old with extremely strong arms, shoulder and legs and of above average height. Throughout his career he made the most of his physical strength, coupled with talent and natural cricket.
As those early days went by it was noticeable that he was keen to learn from the seniors and there were plenty of them. For a continuous period from the early nineteen seventies to the mid nineteen eighties the S.S.C. enjoyed plenty of success and it was the ideal starting point for the young Ranatunga.
He was different from the rest of the pack because he possessed fighting qualities and a daredevil attitude. At that time in the game many played in a laid back manner with a generally placid approach. The contests were keen and intense but in the end a warm and friendly mateship existed. Many months passed, sometimes even in excess of a year between the short international encounters.
Arriving when he did and being thrown into the deep end to play against England that same year, in the inaugural test, made him the first of a new breed of Sri Lankan players. Many of those who survived through the next ten years, were to form the nucleus that followed Ranatunga, to become part of the side that won the World Cup in 1996.
Much has been written and spoken about Arjuna Ranatunga the cricketer, in every part of the cricket playing world. It is a part of a very rich history. All of that now adorns in his brain, stored as knowledge and experience. Every bit of which will be so valuable as he takes over the reins as Chairman Interim Committee, Sri Lanka Cricket. The governing body has grown and grown in the past twenty five years -- mostly after the 1996 World Cup. Just like the win, it has all come about in an unexpected fashion. Whilst committees and its heads have changed regularly no definite policies have been established. Mostly one lot has undone what the previous regime has begun. There has been no continuation in most areas.
Within a short period of time Ranatunga must establish a strong team of past players and professionals and must also ensure the sub committees too are served with competent personnel. Areas such as finance, administration and marketing are very important in the game’s progress and the best in those fields must be sought after.
Having a great past would mean that he has a vision in how the game must be nurtured.
He also knows of the past players who can serve in the different areas. There will also be many past players who will put their hands up to serve. All these are huge pluses in governing the sport.
At the press conference which was held on January 2, he indicated as a main goal to take the game to the village. That must be an immediate venture. However, it cannot be done without grounds that has turf pitches. Today, outside Colombo turf cricket is available only in Galle, Matara, Kurunegala, Kandy (three), Kurunegala and Dambulla.
Within the next two years at least ten to twelve grounds must be constructed, with the required turf facilities in towns where the game is currently being played. Up until now coaches have been sent to the villages, quantities of equipment have been donated. That is fine, but players cannot develop and progress unless they have a place to play. SLC may not be able to handle it on their own, they will have to get assistance from the government to secure land.
Arjuna Ranatunga has re-emerged to take on a new role.