Arjuna Ranatunga’s greatest moment was leading Sri Lanka to victory in the 1996 World Cup, but it is often forgotten that making his Test debut at 18 and scoring a half-century against the likes of England’s Bob Willis, Ian Botham and Derek Underwood at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo was a triumph in itself. That boy is 50 today. And despite his one-day heroics, he has remained a great supporter of Test cricket.
On Saturday, Ranatunga graced the field again by participating in the over-40 Old Boys’ 12-over per side competition for Buddhist institutions in the Colonel Henry Steele Olcott Memorial cricket tournament in Kandy from where the Lankan lion spoke to Sunday MiD DAY.
How does it feel to turn 50?
I haven’t really thought about it. But I have to admit that I am getting old. It cannot be helped (laughs).
How do you plan to celebrate your landmark birthday?
I am in Kandy where I am performing some religious ceremonies at temples here. Today (Saturday) I participated in a over-40 cricket tournament which is held annually.
How much do you miss the game?
Not too much! I enjoy watching Test cricket and one-dayers. These two forms have given us a lot of pleasure over the years. I still enjoy watching school cricket and twice a month, I go into rural areas and conduct a coaching programme.
But, you are no fan of T20 cricket…
Yes, but one has to accept that a lot of people like to watch it and get entertained. Personally, I feel this format is not good for the younger generation. They (administrators) have to be very careful while handling young cricketers. A lot of talent has gone, technique has gone, values have gone. It’s all about earning money and just playing carnival cricket. If the world wants, it will go through, but I personally feel a lot of ruin has taken place over the years because of T20 cricket. The problem is that these so-called Premier Leagues offer players huge amounts of money. I am sure they (the players) can’t look the other way. This has been happening all over the world, including Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the way Test cricket is promoted is not good enough. You go to England and Australia and you can watch a Test match with crowded stadiums and these countries survive at the top.
What should India worry about?
India has been struggling when it comes to Test cricket away from home. When you don’t have good bowlers to win games, you will suffer. Batting-wise, India look good — there are some really good, talented players, but bowling looks weak every time.
How do you see India faring in South Africa?
They might struggle a bit with the bouncy wickets, but then I am sure they have played enough cricket to adjust. It will be a tough series. — an eye-opener for most of the Indian players.