Sanjeewa Ranatunga - sixth Anandian to win Observer Award
By Leslie Fernando
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.