Sri Lanka, over the years, has had its share of excellent radio and TV cricket commentators. And now we have another one. He is Russel Premakumaran Arnold, who in my opinion, ranks among the best in the world. He is witty, knowledgeable and so easy on the ear. An unbiased observer will state that he is very much on par with the likes of Michael Holding, Ian Bishop, Tony Greig, Sanjay Manjrekar, Ian Chappell and our own Roshan Abeysinghe.
Man for a crisis: Russel Arnold retired from international cricket after the 2007 CWC in the Caribbean. In fact, it was ‘The Island’ Sports Editor who exclusively reported that in an extensive interview with the amiable cricketer, just prior to the final, where Sri Lanka emerged as the second best team, behind Ricky Ponting’s Australians. He was the ideal man for a crisis. On many an occasion, when Sri Lanka’s top order batsmen failed, the rangy left hand bat came to the rescue of the team. He was also a useful right arm off-spinner and an agile fielder. Arnold’s ability to adapt his game to the situation made him an ideal No.6 in limited overs cricket and an unselfish approach explains the high esteem, in which he is still held by his former teammates.
Cool head when under pressure: A cool head under pressure helps when chasing and that was Russel Arnold. Born in Colombo on October 25, 1973, he had his education at St. Peter’s College, Colombo, and went on to captain the First XI cricket team.
His ODI stats are far superior to his Test stats. In ODIs, he scored 3950 runs in 180 matches with a top score of 103 at a respectable average of 35.26. He had a strike rate of 72.57. Tall and angular, he was a patient accumulator of runs.
Arnold began his Test career as an opener but despite solid scores then, and on his recall for the Asian Test Championship two years later, he lost out to Marvan Atapattu as Sanath Jayasuriya’s partner. Short of runs by late 2000, he dropped into the lower middle order. When a loss of form and confidence from Jayasuriya gaveArnoldanother chance at the top of the order in 2002, he scored 62 and 109 in a valiant rearguard at Old Trafford,England.
Failure in the series that followed left him on the sidelines for long periods after the 2003 World Cup, butArnoldmade his way back into the team for the home series againstAustralia.
Despite making 51 not out in his last ODI againstZimbabwe,Arnoldwas dropped from the ODI and Test teams in July 2004. The seven-man Ashantha de Mel selection committee wanted to blood new talent andArnold’s future looked bleak for a while. But he worked hard on his game in the nets and started to score heavily in domestic cricket, playing for NCC. Finally, with his replacements failing to impress, he won a recall for theNew Zealandtour in December 2004. However, pressure from the young brigade – the likes of presentSri Lankaskipper Tillakaratne Dilshan – left him fighting for his place. His Test role went first, but after a poor tour ofEnglandin 2006 (following some promising efforts inAustralia), he was dumped. But experience can never be discounted in major tournaments and he found a spot in the 2007 World Cup squad.
Hey ‘Rusty’, Sri Lanka is proud of you!