Colombo: Arjuna Ranatunga, the 1996 World Cup-winning captain and now a deputy minister, isn’t claiming credit, but the Sri Lankan bowlers’ excellent show in Sunday’s Asia Cup final versus India came not many hours after his tips.
Specifically, Ranatunga had a session with leggie Upul Chandana, who returned the best figures (three for 33) and left-arm quick Chaminda Vaas (who evicted Virender Sehwag in the innings’ third over).
“The captain (Maravan Atapattu) wanted me to interact with some of his bowlers and batsmen... And, so, despite differences with the board, I attended nets (on Saturday evening) for the first time since retirement,” Ranatunga told The Telegraph.
Speaking on Monday afternoon, he added: “Upul wasn’t getting into rhythm, while Vaasie didn’t have a specific problem... I worked at some length with Upul and, though I’m not seeking credit, he was a changed bowler in the final... Whether one is a batsman or bowler, the basics must never be forgotten.”
Asked whether he expected Sri Lanka to win so comfortably (25 runs), Ranatunga replied: “I was confident we would come off better, largely because we played the best cricket in the tournament... Then, once Maravan won the toss, I realised chasing (229) wouldn’t be easy for India...”
He agreed the Premadasa wicket wasn’t ideal for a one-day final, but insisted it can’t be an excuse. “India didn’t have a meaningful partnership till eight wickets had gone (for 147)... Fact is we bowled and fielded like champions and Maravan didn’t do a thing wrong... In my opinion, he was outstanding and deserves a lot more credit.”
Ranatunga, by the way, had ‘advice’ for Sanath Jayasuriya — who drove away with the Maruti Esteem after being adjudged MoS (293 runs at an average of 73.25 and figures of two for 34 in the decider).
He said: “Sanath is now 35 and while he got back-to-back hundreds (against Bangladesh and India) he has begun to play away from the body... That is bound to be disastrous and he should pay attention to technique. After all, his feet aren’t moving as well as they used to and his eye can’t be as quick either...”
Ranatunga has already “gently” drawn Jayasuriya’s attention to the technique bit during their interaction at nets.
Talking about India, Ranatunga felt the preparation must have been inadequate. “It’s difficult to say anything with certainty, but it appeared the three-month lay-off (after Pakistan) wasn’t a thing of the past when India landed in Sri Lanka… However, the team has brilliant players and the way forward is to forget this Asia Cup.”
That, perhaps, is easier declared than done.
Footnote: Meanwhile, Irfan Pathan emerged the highest wicket-taker (14), with Sachin Tendulkar at No. 2 with a dozen victims. Among batsmen, Shoaib Malik scored the most (316), followed by Jayasuriya (293), Sachin (281), Sourav Ganguly (244) and Avishka Gunawardene (227).