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DateLine Sunday, 30 March 2008

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World Cup winning captain Arjuna won Observer award in 1980 and 1982

CRICKET: Look to the Sunday Observer for your cricket stars - you will be able to pick them quite easily. There is one cricketer who really stands out from the rest and he is none other than Arjuna Ranatunga who was Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1980 and 1982 and then climbed the ladder of success in inter-club and international cricket.

December 1st 1963 was the day that Arjuna Ranatunga came into this world and from his young days the took a liking for cricket and he went for it in a big way and there was success coming his way as he devoted his heart and soul to the game.

At Ananda, he was a leading light and he had the fine backing from his parents and his brothers to forge ahead in the game that he really cherished.

He had a number of successes at Ananda and it was quite natural that he was picked for the coveted honour of Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year twice and that opened up a big future for him in cricket.

The big moment for Arjuna was undoubtedly the winning of the World Cup in 1996 beating Australia in the final at Lahore.

Sri Lanka's team on that historic day comprised: Arjuna Ranatunga (Capt), Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Asanka Gurusinha, Aravinda de Silva, Hashan Tillekeratne, Roshan Mahanama, Kumar Dharmasena, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan and Promodaya Wickremasinghe.

Lanka's finest moment

Australia batted first and made 240. Sri Lanka, after a disappointing start losing openers Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana for just 23 runs, recovered well. Asanka Gurusinha and Aravinda de Silva made it good, totalling 130 for 3 wickets. Gurusinha made 65, but Aravinda de Silva batted delightfully and made 112 not out and that knock really paved the way for Sri Lanka's fine victory at the end.

Aravinda de Silva and skipper Arjuna Ranatunga made 24 not out and these two stalwarts made it - 241 for 3 wickets, thereby winning the coveted World Cup. To Arjuna went the honour of scoring the winning run when he drove Aussie paceman Glen Mcgrath to the boundary and that stroke will long be remembered!

Ranatunga showed early promise as a cricketer at Ananda and he had many fine knocks with his bat in inter-school cricket matches. He played for Sri Lanka as a schoolboy at the age of 18 years and stroked a fluent half-century in the inaugural Test against England led by Keith Fletcher at the Saravanamuttu Stadium.

Arjuna Ranatunga was a player who inspires the younger lot. He turned out to be a wonderful skipper in both Test matches and one-day Internationals. India's former legendary cricket captain Sunil Gavaskar paid Ranatunga a rich compliment when he said that Ranatunga had exceptional playing skills at one time Gavaskar wanted him to coach the Indian cricket team.

The stylish lefthander Ranatunga's first international century was in February 1984 against Central Zone match played in Faislabad. Ranatunga was a member of the Sri Lanka under-23 team that played against Pakistan under-23 team in two Unofficial Tests (new Series). He scored a delightful century, 114 not out.

The power and authority with which Ranatunga batted could be seen by the fact that he took only 89 minutes to compile his century which was the first for Sri Lanka on the tour. He had sixteen 4s in his knock. With Brendon Kuruppu (Captain) unbeaten 86 were associated in an unbroken second wicket partnership of 164 runs.

Great heights

A lot can be said in favour of Ranatunga. His first contribution came as a batsman as Sri Lanka set out to prove that it could hold its own on the international stage. Throughout a long career, he was a tower of strength in the middle order. Nimble footed and fearless, he confronted his opponents, refusing to take a step back. In short, he was the cricketing version of the freedom fighter required by every nation.

Ranatunga took his team to great heights. After his playing career was over, Ranatunga won a massive vote block to enter Parliament in his political debut in December 2001. He made a comeback too at the last general election.

Today, Arjuna Ranatunga occupies the top seat in Sri Lanka Cricket and said that SLC is pleased to be associated with the ANCL for the Observer - Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contests 2008. "Sri Lanka cricket is concentrating on School cricket to strengthen our national pool.

Ranatunga who is the Chairman of Asian Cricket Council has already given the blessings of Sri Lanka Cricket in its endeavour to recognise the talents and achievement of local schoolboy cricketers.

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