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DateLine Sunday, 15 June 2008

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Sanjeewa Ranatunga - sixth Anandian to win Observer Award

CRICKET: Former Ananda College captain Sanjeewa Ranatunga, the fifth of six Ranatunga brothers, became the sixth Anandian to win the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1988.


Sanjeewa Ranatunga - young and healthy waiting for the opportunity to perform well.

The star left handed batsman, Sanjeewa had the honour of leading the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team and he also represented the country in Tests and One-day Internationals.

Sanjeewa was unanimously picked for the main award by the umpires panel of Messrs, Dooland Buultjens, Leslie Saverimutte and R. Chelvaratnam from the Association of Cricket Umpires Sri Lanka while the President of the Central Province Cricket Umpires Association Aubrey Kuruppu, too, was present. Representatives from the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association were invited to be present at the selection but did not turn up.

Besides winning the main award, Ranatunga was also picked as the Best Batsman and the Best Captain.

This is the first occasion that two brothers from one family won the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award. Sanjeewa Ranatunga’s elder brother Arjuna, won the award in 1980 and 1982.

While Ranatunga won the All-Island title, former Sri Lanka skipper Sanath Jayasuriya from St. Servatius’ College won the Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title. Sanath Jayasuriya, too, won two other awards. Sanath was also picked as the Best Batsman and Best Allrounder in the Outstation Contest.

Born on April 25th in 1969, Sanjeewa took a liking for the game of cricket from his young days. He followed the footsteps of brothers Dhammika Ranatunga, Prasanna, Arjuna and Nishantha all who did yeoman service for Ananda College in cricket. Sanjeewa had a number of successes at Ananda.

He captained the under-14 team and went on to lead the under-16 team and the first XI teams with distinction. His talent as a cricketer was spotted by a familiar name in cricket Anuruddha Polonowita, a former Sri Lanka player.

Sanjeewa was a prolific scorer in 1987-1988 school cricket season. He scored 726 runs in the 1987 and in 1988, he topped 1,000 run-mark. He also was a clever off-spinner. He captured 48 wickets in 1982 school season.

Many valuable knocks


The big moment in 1988... Sanjeewa Ranatunga - the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year receives his cherished award from chief guest Sri Lanka skipper Michael Tissara.

Sanjeewa, once his playing days were over at school, came into the club scene automatically. He represented the Nondescript Cricket Club in the BCCSL conducted cricket tournaments. He has played several valuable innings for the club.

His illustrious international career started when he played against Zimbabwe in two Test matches in 1994. He made two centuries against Zimbabwe.

The wickets in Zimbabwe were not at all responsive to stroke making. Yet this youngster with determination, dedication and devotion left his mark with some great displays.

Sanjeewa, with three centuries to his credit, one in a side game and two in the Tests, cemented his one drop slot in the team.

Of the three centuries, the one he made in the second innings of the second Test when Sri Lanka were up against it, was the best and worth its weight in gold.

With a very straight back lift and bat held up, Tony Greg style, Ranatunga is well positioned and always has his right foot to the pitch of the ball and head down before executing his strokes.

The Zimbabwean bowlers always tried to work methods of getting him out. But unless he gave it away with a bad shot, the visiting team bowlers just could not breach his defence.

What is admirable in his batting is that he concentrates and does so for long periods which was an example to his team mates. In addition, he is blessed with a fine temperament and if everything goes well he should be a heavy scorer for Sri Lanka in tours to come.

He drives well on either side of the wicket and cuts superbly. His weakness at times is the pull shot between mid-wicket and fine leg.

Manager cum coach on tour Ranjith Fernando was with him working out this weakness at the nets and towards tail-end of the tour and he seemed to have overcome this weakness.

After a successful tour Sanjeewa played against the Australians in Adelaide. Sanjeewa (26 years) has played in four Test matches and has two ‘tons’ already to his credit.

Tall and lanky in comparison to the rely-polly Arjuna, Sanjeewa the one but the youngest of Ranatunga brothers, with rather unorthodox stance has been quite effective in countering many bowlers.

Sanjeewa, without a doubt, has ‘cut’ his teeth as a batsman with a bright future in Test cricket in Sri Lanka.

Good average

On completion of seven Test matches, Sanjeewa has aggregated 397 runs with a superb batting average of 59.71. He has played under his brother Arjuna, who too, has done extremely well in the one-day internationals.

It was on 6th August 1994, the second one-dayer against world champions Pakistan at the Premadasa International Stadium, he was one of the three players directly responsible for Lankans’ win.

The other two players were Sanath Jayasuriya and Ruwan Kalpage who had career best figures of 4 for 36. Sanjeewa and Sanath put on 104 runs in their opening stand. Sanath made 54 and Sanjeewa top scored with 70 in 116 balls, hitting 4 fours.

Sri Lanka won and squared one-all. He lost his form at a certain time and few injuries saw Sanjeewa out of the team. He, however took stock with the domestic tournaments and was appointed Sri Lanka ‘A’ team captain.

He captained the Board XI against England ‘A’ at Sara Stadium and hit a splendid unbeaten 87, Sanjeewa also hit a courageous unbeaten 93 for Sri Lanka Board XI against Pakistan at Welagedara Stadium. Sanjeewa weathered the storm of the visitors bowlers but was forced to retire after completing his half century when he ducked into a Wasim Akram delivery and was hit on the side of the face.

It was pleasing to note that two brothers captained the Sri Lanka main cricket teams. Sanjeewa captained Sri Lanka ‘A’ team against West Indies ‘A’ in the unofficial Test match on 13th November 1996. On the same day, his brother Arjuna was leading the Sri Lanka team at the Champions Trophy in Sarjah. It was a historic occasion in the cricket calendar of the Ranatungas.

Sanjeewa Ranatunga was recalled to the Sri Lanka team for the four-nation one-dayers in India and two Tests in West Indies in 1997.

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