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DateLine Sunday, 23 March 2008

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Madugalle brought honour to Sri Lanka as Chief Match Referee

TOP OF THE WORLD: The name of Ranjan Madugalle - a top Sri Lanka cricketer and a cricketer who blossomed out from Royal College was the talk of the town in the latter part of the 19th century. He really made his presence felt in inter-school cricket and was picked as the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1978 and 1979.

The early promise that Madugalle held during his schooling at Royal College, stood him in good stead after he left school and he was an instant success with the Sri Lanka team. Right now, Madugalle is on a higher platform and is the Chief Match Referee of the I.C.C.

He was one of the finest allrounders produced by Royal and in the 99th 'Battle of the Blues' his eagle-eyed anticipation helped him to snap up four catches and he also was superb in his ground fielding that surprised many spectators.

The judges in the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest would have had little difficulty in arriving at their decision for the coveted award. Madugalle, after a number of fine innings with the bat, was a winner all the way.

He was the first schoolboy batsman in January that year to knock up a century against St. Benedict's. But the match that will live long in his memory as a schoolboy in his first year as captain of Royal was unquestionably the clash against St. Joseph's as he had scored six consecutive centuries in three years - from 1977 to 1979. He made 52 and 36 not out against the Thomians that year and followed it up with 68 not out in the limited-over game.

Fine complement

Ananda's coach those days - the late Mr. P.W. Perera paid the finest compliment to Madugalle after his fine knock of 89 against Ananda that season. "It was a gem of an innings. He went into bat and he looked a cricketer all over. He is in a class of his own."

With class written all over him, it was nothing but fair that rewards did come his way. He was picked as the 'Man of the Match' and the 'Best Batsman' in the limited-over game against the Thomians.

With such fine performances, he was picked as the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, Best Batsman, Best Captain and runner-up in the Best Fielder's Contest.

Madugalle's leadership qualities were even recognised by the Sri Lanka cricket selectors who picked him as captain of the Sri Lanka Under 19 Team for All Tests against the Australian under 19 team.

However, Madugalle could not participate in full in the first two Tests as he was taken ill in the First Test at Galle and was absent in the Second Test at Katugastota, but played in the third Test in Colombo. His interest in cricket began when he was just five years old.

He first was at Trinity College and crossed over to Royal in 1971. He captained the Trinity under 12 team and played for the under 14 as a 11-year-old and came over to Colombo when his father got a transfer to Colombo.

He played for Royal first eleven team in 1974-75 season as a 15 year-old. The first few matches was somewhat disappointing, but, Madugalle stuck with the game and soon 'found his feet' and he began to blossom out.

He picked up the game fast and turned out to be a fine batsman as he came into his own and grasped the art of batsmanship in double quick time.

Thrilling displays

Many are the scores that thrilled the spectators when he was playing for Royal. Besides captaining both Royal and then Sri Lanka under 19, he played two successive years against Pakistan under 19 in the "Ali Bhutto Trophy Matches," once in Sri Lanka in 1975 and in Pakistan the following year.

The first year saw Ranjan take a lead role in Sri Lanka's victory with a haul of 8 for 34 in the second innings when Pakistan were set the target of making 240 for victory in 210 minutes.

In 1976, he toured Pakistan with the under 19 team, but concentrated more on batting, though he was number one off-spinner of the side. He also represented the Schools team in the Robert Senanayake Trophy Tournament and in his debut in 1976, scored 56 and helped the Schools to beat the Defence Services.

After his playing days were somewhat over early in his career, Ranjan Madugalle was associated in decision making - not as an umpire, but as a match referee.

200 one-dayers

One year back in Georgetown, Guyana ground an year back, Ranjan Madugalle officiated in his 200th one-dayer as match referee on Friday, March 30 during the World Cup Super Eights game between England and Ireland.

Soft spoken, but a strict disciplinarian, Madugalle is widely-respected and is quite thrilled to reach the landmark. He seemed to be quite satisfied with this achievement. His first outing as a match referee was between Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Karachi in 1993.

He said that he looked at it as another one-day international, but when he looks back and reflect on the journey, he said that it was something he enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. Madugalle who will turn 49 on April 22, has completed over a century of Tests as match referee. He became chief match referee in 2001.

As a stylish batsman, Madugalle played 21 tests and 63 one-day internationals until 1988 and also led Sri Lanka in two Tests.

Great test

He feels playing the game was an honour but acting as a referee is a great test. "There is no substitute for playing for your country. It is the single greatest honour." He said that he is enjoying his current role and he is doing it with a passion.

He disagreed that the implementation of the Code of Conduct and the match referee's role means that the International Cricket Council (ICC) is policing the game. "I think that when the match referee was introduced it was for the role of disciplining the players, but that actually was just one aspect of the job," said Madugalle.

"The role also deals with players' safety, creates safety standards and more importantly, deals with the umpires".

Difficult case

"We like to think that the referees have played a role in standardising certain aspects of the game. No role is constant so it is evolving and we will also start moving towards changes.

Without doubt, he rates The Oval controversy, when Pakistan forfeited the final Test against England in a row over alleged ball-tampering, as the single most difficult case he has handled.

"Before that incident the game had not seen a forfeiture." Madugalle said, and added that he was not the referee but he had to officiate at the hearing and it was the single most difficult case. It happened in August 2006.

The then Pakistan captain Inzamam-Ul-Haq refused to take the field after tea on the fourth day against England after umpires Darrell Hair of Australia and West Indian Billy Doctrove charged Pakistan with ball-tampering. The Test ended in a forfeit - the first in Test cricket's 129-year history.

The ICC conducted an inquiry through Madugalle who cleared Inzamam of ball tampering charges, but banned him for four one-day matches for bringing the game into disrepute.

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