RUMESH RATNAYAKE: SRI LANKAN GEM

How important is it for cricket to be change from time to time to keep the audience interested?

Nowadays the money is in the shorter form of the game. Personally I think the shorter form of the game complements the longer form. It complements based on finances as well as the skill needed. We used to think that one needed to play the longer form to get used to the ODI format and now the Twenty20 but I think the other way around. It is the one-day format which has changed the whole scenario of world cricket. It brought in skill which helped in the longer form of the game and also brought about huge amounts of money which could be spent on research and development

Now with Twenty20 coming in, it will enhance the skill levels of the game even more. Test cricket is all about patience and almost like a chess game but the skills of players have improved vastly and I love to watch Test games now, and as a player have loved playing them.

How physically fit do you have to be?

You have to be super fit. Test matches were totally improved by one-day cricket as of the skill, fitness and the ability of the players. And therefore Twenty20 will surely enhance the other two forms of the game plus it will be interesting to see the game grows to another level in the next five years. Now the difference between Test and one-day games is that you need to have a lot of patience in Test games. Patience can be taken as a skill, but a mindset too, whereas not everyone has skill so the developing of the skill can easily adapt to Test cricket and the mindset can be sorted out but it is harder to work it the other way around. I can safely say a good one-day player can play good Test cricket if his mindset is sorted out.

What about fitness at amateur Affiliate and Associate level?

Fitness is its own reward but the thing is, even at the non-Test level things are very competitive. There is a lot on offer for a good national cricketer in terms of exposure and playing opportunities and the fact is, everyone plays cricket wanting to do well. The fitter you are, the more chance you will have to give your best.

Now the ACC has taken the three-day game off its list of tournaments and people think it will not improve cricket. But I don’t think this is the case. The shortened form of the game will also help players’ skill levels and there is nothing stopping them from playing the three-day games in their own countries.

Going back to Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test win in 1985  against India, how vital was that win in pushing Sri Lanka cricket forward?

That’s a Test I would never forget, maybe it’s because I performed very well. That was really the start where the world believed that we could take on any team. Having said that, Sri Lanka has always had a good cricketing team; unfortunately we did not get the Test status until 1981. In 1964, the year I was born, Sri Lanka sent a team to India where they beat India in an unofficial Test.

Now, how important was that? To me, that win was more important because they beat India in India. But there has been no mention of that. But petty instances prolonged our non-Test status and we only got it many years later. There was a mention of us missing a certain tour to England and because of other politics involved we didn’t get the status in 1968/69 when we should have. At that time, it was the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) who nominated and decided and since we missed out it took another 13 years. But the 1985 win had a huge impact and we believed we could’ve beaten any other team at that time. I am glad and very proud to be a part of that team.

What advantages do today’s players have over players of your time?

Chatting with Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene in Chennai during the 2007 Afro-Asia Cup

They do have a lot of advantages but at the same time they are sacrificing a lot. Because of this they need to be complemented. Sacrifice as in, there are guys who virtually stop studying from the age of 15 and 16 to play cricket and they need to be rewarded. At one time in Sri Lanka the rewards were distributed to only the Sri Lankan team, A team and academy squads but now it is diverted to the clubs as well.

Cricket-wise they have the advantage of feedback on site, whether it is in the nets or through coaches. Also there are better facilities like having a trainer, special physios who the players have access to at any time. This is a huge breakthrough because when you’re injured you might be doing something wrong and with the help of the physio one can be instructed on what to do, change etc. The infrastructure too is much better as well as the financial aspect where players have sufficiently benefited, which they deserve. If cricket is going to be like football and if companies, clubs and countries look after them like how it is happening, I think it is very fair.

Biomechanical Analysis in Hong Kong

I want to add in a personal experience of mine – four days before the World Cup in 1992 I was injured in a World Cup warm-up game and had to undergo surgery. I paid a total sum of 3300 Australian dollars for my operation and wasn’t compensated for it by the Board. After I had the operation I stayed in Australia for two months for physiotherapy. I have no remorse towards anyone at all and this is just an example of how things have changed, it was just that the boards then did not have enough money. I actually should’ve stayed longer in Australia after the surgery because there was no one to monitor my progress back home, exercises and all. But nowadays players are closely monitored and they recover in a matter of weeks and are back on the team. It has been 16 years and I still can’t make it back into the team! Having said that, the amount of respect the Board had for me back when I was playing and now as well for that matter, compensates for the incident. They are constantly asking me to come back and I really appreciate this and it is more than money can buy.

What can be added into the ACC Development Program to enhance it?

Awarding a prize to a future star, David Mathias of Bahrain

We need to be going about doing a lot more educational programs. Now that Cricket Australia is not with us, we need to design our own educational programs and course material and put it into countries so that it will cater to the natural flavour of the player. It is also very important for each country to have designated offices to work out of.

The infrastructure has to be able to identify and support the entire system like a school system, club or divisional structure. It is so that cricket is spread out systematically so that it is easily accessible.

Good and smart optional governance will be the key to success for individual countries. At the end of the day the countries themselves need to recognize their specific needs and their potential and they must improve the base, be it player or infrastructural.

How much more can the ACC do to push cricket into non-ACC member countries?

We need to fine tune our members first before going into other countries; the focus now should be quality. We should identify the level of how much we can do with the countries and spend more time and energy on them. After this we should let them challenge themselves by going to higher levels. With objectives set for each of them they will need to achieve it themselves, with our help of course, at the end of the day.

LINKS: Cricinfo Profile of Rumesh Ratnayake

Filed April 04 2008