Pelham Juriansz, in the Sunday Leader, 26 Feb. 2012
What a shock! This is the only way that I can describe my reaction to the news that my former school-friend, cricket captain, amazing bowler and erstwhile friend, Ranil G. Abeynaike had passed away. I can still remember Ranil as a young, ‘up and coming’ bowler in 1971, where he made it to the ‘Royal-Thomian Big Match’ of 1971. That year, the stylish Ravi Sathasivam led the Thomians. In the following year – 1972 (exactly 40 years ago) Duleep Mendis as skipper mauled the Royalists for 184. In those two years Ranil, was a mere ‘spectator.’
It was in the following year, however, that he matured as a bowler, and really struck the headlines every week. A good bowler of those times averaged roughly four wickets per match, but Ranil in about 15 matches that season took well over 90 wickets! That’s Murali stuff!
In the Royal Thomian of 1973 the Thomians had three deadly spin bowlers, and we called them the ‘Three ‘As” as they were Abeynaike, Abeygunawardena and Abeywardene. That is Ranil himself and his partner in left arm spinning crime, Ajith Abeygunda( as we affectionately called him), and last but not least, one of the finest ‘offies’ with a classical action, Ravi Abeywardene. This ‘threesome’ accounted for numerous wickets in 1973, so much so that the Royalists were scared of them and folded up for 124 in the first innings. In the second innings, Prasanna ‘Kari’ and Chelliah, came out with guns blazing, wanting to ‘tame’ the three Thomian spinners. And tame them they did. At the end the Thomians were hanging on for dear life with Ravi and Gamini Kumarage holding on to their wickets. But, this did not deter Ranil and co. Some weeks later they met the Royalists in the Lifebuoy trophy final and won. Sweet revenge! Not really. Speaking later at a school Assembly, at which yours truly was present, Ranil spoke about the disappointment at almost losing the ‘Big Match’. The title of his speech was ‘Disappointment is God’s appointment’. Very fitting indeed!
What really stood out in Ranil’s life was the deeply rooted religious belief in God that underlined his relationships. Nobody’s perfect and Ranil would have had his off days and his setbacks in life, but life is all about accepting challenges and “moving on” as the old ABBA song would say.
As a TV cricket commentator he was up there with the best, like Tony Greig, Ian Chappell, and the like.
His command of the English language and his knowledge of the game made him a much sought after commentator and analyst. His contribution to his alma mater as coach was seen in the number of College players who gathered at his funeral. Of recent times was Faheem Saleem and Ashan Pieris, both of whom scored over 150 at the ‘Big Match’. Then there was test cricketer, Kaushal Silva, skipper of 2004.
It would be fair to say that Ranil’s life was true to the motto of his alma mater and would ‘be forever’ in our hearts!
May the turf that he nurtured so caringly, lie gently over him.