Sri Lanka cricket’s Kohinoor Diamond | Daily News
Anura Ranasinghe’s 19th death anniversary :

Sri Lanka cricket’s Kohinoor Diamond

Anura Ranasinghe
Anura Ranasinghe

Way back in 1966, on a pleasant Sunday morning, two of us, my wife Swarna – a retired teacher attached to Stafford Ladies College and I were on our way to the Sunday fair (pola) at Kirulopone. At that time we were residing at Nugagahawatte Gardens, opposite the public park, Kirulopone.

It was about 9.15 am. A tennis ball cricket match was in progress. There was a fair crowd witnessing the match. A tiny tot, about 10-11 years, a right hand batsman was batting aggressively, facing a youth fast bowler. Without any fear he was dispatching the ball to all parts of the park. I was also a teacher attached to Nalanda College, Colombo and the master in – charge of cricket, and the prefect of games. I asked my wife to proceed to the pola alone. I joined the spectators at the park.

I inquired from a gentleman who was witnessing the match, who this little boy batting? He said “Sir, this boy is Mr and Mrs Ranasinghe’s son and showed me the house in the corner of the park.

As I thought this was good material for Nalanda College cricket, I went in search of Anura Ranasinghe’s house. A lady came out. I told her that her son is a fine cricketer and inquired from her where this boy was studying? “Sir, he is studying in your school Nalanda,” stated Mrs Ranasinghe.

The following day, I went to the Primary section, spoke to the boy, Anura Ranasinghe and told him to turn up for my under 12 cricket practices.

This fearless tiny tot was an amazing naturally gifted cricketer. When Mr Gerry Gunaratne, Nalanda cricket coach (my cricket coach too) came for the first eleven practices I told him about this boy. “Sir, there is a little boy, a fine batsman, I like you to observe him.” I took him to a side, where Anura was batting. After about 10 minutes, the words late Mr Guneratne said still echoes in my mind.

“My God Chap Epa! This bloke is a freak. This fellow will be like my good friend Sathasivam. For heaven’s sake Epa, don’t try to teach him, he needs no coaching manual. He is a gutty, fearless, born cricketer, only discipline him. Guide him. I will tell you, in another eight or nine years, if this boy continues cricket, he will play for Ceylon,” said ever green coach Gerry Gunaratne.

What a prediction! Words of wisdom, true to Mr Guneratne’s predictions Anura Ranasinghe gained his Ceylon cap before he was 20 years.

Anura was born on October 13th, 1956. His parents were Mr and Mrs Ranasinghe. His elder brother Laxman presently working in Wijeya publications is a sports journalist, his other brother Aruna is a banker by profession. All of them played for Nalanda first eleven. Anura has an elder brother Bandula and two sisters, if my memory serves right. Anura hails from a responsible family from Kirulopone.

Anura not only captained the first eleven in 1975, he also broke the unique bowling record of late P.W. Perera (another cricket coach for more than three decades) at the big match against Ananda.

Anura skippered the under 19 Sri Lanka team, which included the batting “artist of Ceylon” Ranjan Madugalle and under his captaincy, Sri Lanka beat Pakistan under 19 led by Javed Miandad.

While at Nalanda he won his “International Cap” and played against West Indies and scored a swashbuckling innings of 27 runs, facing Andy Roberts, Keith Boyce, Vanburn Holder and Bernard Julian.

Anura’s ODI debut was on 7 June 1975 against West Indies at Manchester. He excelled with the bat against Australia too.

His first Test was against Pakistan from March 14-19 1982. His last test was against India on 17-22 September 1982 at Chennai, Madras.

Nalanda Principal late Sugunadeva Atukorale helped Anura when he was at Nalanda. Further Prefect of Games and Master in-charge of cricket Mr Nelson Mendis, Mr Premasara Epasinghe and Mr Cecil Gamage, guided this brilliant all-rounder at Nalanda to Himalayan heights.

Anura’s international cricket career came to an end in December 1982 with Bandula Warnapura’s South African tour. This tour tarnished the cricket image of Sri Lanka. A fine cricket administrator and secretary of the Board of Control Neil Perera in one of his articles called Warnapura’s South African tour as “an indespicable tour of South Africa”. By this tour many talented cricketers like Laith Kaluperuma, Hemantha Devapriya, Ajith de Silva, Susantha Karunaratne etc cut short their future cricket careers by touring apartheid South Africa. This was the biggest blow Sri Lanka cricket experienced. It tarnished the image of the country too.

Anura was a lovable student who always respected his teachers, coaches and elders. This great Sri Lankan all-rounder breathed his last on 9 November 1998 at the age of 42 years and 57 days.

In Sri Lanka, some grounds are named in honour of some outstanding sportsmen who brought credit to the country.

In Colombo, there is PD Sirisena grounds, named on behalf of the most outstanding soccerite produced in Sri Lanka.

Then down south – Matara, there is a ground named Sanath Jayasuriya grounds in honour of the man who turned limited over cricket upside down.

In Kandy, there is Pallekele, you find Muttiah Muralitharan grounds named after the world bowling record holder.

I appeal to the authorities of the Colombo Municipality, who does so much service to Colombo city dwellers, to name Kirulopone Park as Anura Ranasinghe Park or grounds, the ground that the internationally famous cricketer was born, bred and where he commenced his unique cricket career. 

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