Rex Clementine, in ISLAND, 9th April 2017, where the title is “Our Cricket has no Planning”
A large entourage of Bangladeshi journalists toured with the team covering the bilateral series against Sri Lanka. Over 50 journalists from Bangladesh had been accredited for the series giving you a sense of the interest the game of cricket has created in the country. When the Sri Lanka team tours overseas, very rarely we get five journalists covering the series. On Thursday, the last day of the tour, World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga spoke to the Bangladeshi media after a large number of tourists made requests for interviews with the man who brought unprecedented success to the national cricket team during the two decades he represented the national team. A large entourage of Bangladeshi journalists toured with the team covering the bilateral series against Sri Lanka. Over 50 journalists from Bangladesh had been accredited for the series giving you a sense of the interest the game of cricket has created in the country. When the Sri Lanka team tours overseas, very rarely we get five journalists covering the series. On Thursday, the last day of the tour, World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga spoke to the Bangladeshi media after a large number of tourists made requests for interviews with the man who brought unprecedented success to the national cricket team during the two decades he represented the national team. Here are the excerpts.Here are the excerpts.
Question: Can you tell us why the Sri Lankan team is struggling to produce world class batsmen at present.
Arjuna Ranatunga: When we won the World Cup in 1996, Aravinda batted at number four and I batted at number five. Once Gurusinha retired, we brought Marvan Atapattu to bat at number three. Then we brought Mahela Jayawardane in number five and I went down to number six. Mahela was given good support by Aravinda and me. Batting between the two of us, Mahela had a cushion and he could play his natural game while we soaked up all the pressure. But unfortunately, a similar thing wasn’t done a few years ago. Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardane batted at number two, three and four respectively. They did not change their batting positions. I will blame the selectors for this. We had Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal in the squad at that time. I think these two are still the best batsmen in the country. But the two of them didn’t get similar protection. The biggest example is Sanath Jayasuriya. To convert him into an explosive opener, we were patient and gave him enough time. For Chandimal and Thirimanne, I don’t think the selectors had such kind of patience. You have to give them time and confidence. When a young player understands that the captain and selectors have faith on him, then he could play his game without pressure. I gave support to my players. The message was clear, if you get out playing an attacking shot, I will back you. So go out there and play your natural game was the clear message. I am glad we had selectors like Duleep Mendis and Ranjan Madugalle at that point. I watched Chandimal bat during the first Test in Galle and I was shocked. He wasn’t his natural attacking self. He went into a shell having lost confidence.
Question: Why you don’t like the IPL?
Ranatunga: I feel very sad when I watch cricket today. If you look England, Australia and South Africa they give Test matches, ODIs and T20s the same respect. I don’t know if we have the same attitude elsewhere. I personally felt that when the IPL started it was power against technique. Brains against no brains. And its all about entertainment rather than proper cricket. And I cannot see players like Tendulkar, Gavasker or Aravinda de Silva emerging anymore given the structure they have now. Now all the prominence is on power hitting, guys who entertain and survives. But the happiness I get when I watch The Ashes or South Africa playing Australia is immense. I am worried about the future cricketers. I am talking about those who are playing Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 cricket. When they ignore the technique, ultimately the standard will suffer. You need to have a technique to survive at top level. But in T-20s, you don’t need a technique. Entertainment is essential and T-20 cricket is important to look after the finances. But it’s like junk food. Test cricket for me is like a home cooked meal by mum.
Question: Your thoughts on Bangladesh cricket and Sri Lankan cricket at present.
Ranatunga: I think Bangladesh have improved a lot. I told three years ago that the way Bangladesh is going they will beat Sri Lanka in Tests. That sadly happened in this series. The commitment shown by Bangladesh is awesome. I have played in Bangladesh three seasons, in Mohammedan from 1987 to 1989. I told Bangladesh authorities to improve school cricket. Concentrate on junior levels otherwise your cricket structure will not survive. I think they have successfully implemented it so far. Some Sri Lankan coaches helped Bangladesh cricket in last decades. And the current coaches are doing well also. I think BCB is more focused than SLC at the moment.
Question: The 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup will take place in the sub-continent. Do you think that Bangladesh can win that tournament.
Ranatunga: Only thing they need to concentrate is looking after the younger cricketers. They need to play a lot of ‘A’ team cricket. They should get the Under-19 team to go on lot of tours. I personally believe they are on the right track. But they need to invest more on younger teams. They should plan for 2023 and groom their Under-19 and Under-23 sides. It won’t be difficult as the 2023 tournament will be in the sub-continent. But they need to plan properly. Target the semi-finals first and with a bit of luck you can go all the way. They have a few good fast bowlers. I am very impressed with the left-arm quick Mustafizur Rahman. They need to protect him till 2023. However, to win a World Cup, Bangladesh need to unearth their own Aravinda de Silva. A batsman who can change a game from tough situations.
Question: Your thoughts on the Sri Lanka – Bangladesh series?
Ranatunga: Bangladesh played poorly in Galle. But they bounced back well at the P Sara Oval. The way their openers batted was crucial. Bangladesh batsmen have good technique but mentally they need to be stronger. You just need one guy to motivate the entire team. The batsmen are talented and they have got all the shots. Now they need to be mentally tough.
Question: You vehemently opposed the Big Three take over of the ICC. Can you elaborate why?
Ranatunga: I am totally against the Big Three take over. At that time I was stern in my opposition saying that it should not be allowed to happen in any shape or form. Three countries controlling cricket and taking the lion’s share of the profit home is outrageous. Imagine in football if Argentina, Brazil and Germany say that they want to control the game. That’s not sport. That’s business. I believe that the ICC does not always do the right thing. The ICC is always under pressure from India or some other countries when it comes to running the game. Thankfully, now Indian cricket is under the protection of the Supreme Court. This is the best thing to happen for Indian cricket. I am certain that if this happens in our country, it will save our cricket too. I am sure that if the Supreme Court gets involved in cricket in this country, and creates the right combination for running cricket that will be great.
Question: Who were the leaders in cricket that you used to look upto?
Ranatunga: Two guys. I used to admire Imran Khan and Kapil Dev. I used to always wonder how those two guys won the World Cup despite many obstacles. For me the ambition was given by the two of them. Imran was a top class cricketer and he used to lead from the front. I liked his leadership style. My way or the highway was his theory. He always protected his players. I must say that I am not as good as Imran as a cricketer. He was a very good batsman and exceptional bowler. He was a team man and I really liked the way how he sacrificed personal milestones for the team’s sake. I followed him. I don’t have many hundreds. I didn’t care about my average. But winning was important for me. Apart from the World Cup, winning a Test Match in England was very sweet because it shook up the establishment in England. They were too snobbish. England always gave us one Test match. I was angry. In 1998, I motivated the team to give everything they have as I knew it was my last Test tour to England. When we won the Oval Test match in style, a British journalist asked me why Sri Lanka were not getting three Tests from England. I said that they were scared of losing 3-0. The very next series we were given three Tests. I only played one off Tests against England. But I contributed in some extent to getting three Test series in England. The danger for Bangladesh cricket is now that they are winning, money will come into the game. Money is a big spoiler. Money is important, but players need to get their priorities right. Don’t allow the players to look at money and play for the country.
What are your memories of Bangladesh?
Ranatunga:They really looked after me when I went in 1987. I played for Mohammedan for three seasons. One was a proper season, then two years I played maybe about five games. And I have lovely memories. I had some incidents. In one of the games, I had an argument with a wicketkeeper, but it was fun. And I tell you honestly, the first time I walked out for Mohammedan it was fully packed in Dhaka. I had never seen a domestic cricket match with that kind of a crowd. And there was one guy I will always remember, who carried tea for the entire stadium. He starts in the dressing room, one cup, the entire tea basket and goes around. I haven’t been to Bangladesh for a long period now. Maybe I will go there as a Minister. I guess my past experiences with the country will help me to divert more ships to Colombo and get berths here rather than Singapore. Coming to Colombo is cheaper than going to Singapore. That’s something that I will discuss with my Bangladeshi counterparts.