|Monday, 17 January 2005|
Roshan Mahanama - Perfectionist in batting and fielding
Life and times in sports by Premasara Epasinghe
He was like a Knight (Chess piece - shaped like a horse head) on a chess board. At times, he took the role of a Rook (castle) or even Bishop (A senior clergyman in charge of the work of the church in a City or District) in chess jargon, a piece shaped like a Bishop's Hat. But, he sadly ended up as a Pawn. (One of the eight chess-men of the smallest size and value). That describes the career of Roshan Mahanama.
Roshan Siriwardene Mahanama born on 31st May 1966, played 52 Test Matches and in 89 innings, unbeaten once, collected 2,576 runs at an average of 29.27. He scored 4 centuries and 11 half centuries and held 56 catches. Unlike Mankad, who did not play in ODIs, Mahanama did national duty for Sri Lanka in 213 matches and in 198 innings, unbeaten on 23 occasions, scored 5,162 runs at an average of 29.49. His highest score in this form of game is 119 not out. He maintained a strike rate of 60.59, scored 4 centuries and 35 half centuries. The local "Jonty Rhodes" - Mahanama, held 109 catches.
Mahanama came very close to former Indian all-rounder Vinoo Mankad, as he batted from 01 to 08 in the batting order for Sri Lanka. This affected Mahanama's averages in Text and ODI's performances, respectively.
Mahanama represented Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club and Colombo Cricket Club,in the big league. His debut Test was the 2nd Test, played in 1985/1986 - Sri Lanka - Pakistan at CCC grounds, Colombo. His last Test was the 2nd Test played between Sri Lanka and South Africa at Centurion South Africa. The latest One Day International, he represented was in the World Cup 1999 - Sri Lanka versus Kenya at Southampton. I was very fortunate to give live updates to Sri Lanka through the air-waves of S.L.B.C. from South Africa and England.
Mahanama's cricket career was not a bed of roses. He faced problems as a school-cricketer. His "Eton" for cricket was Nalanda Vidyalaya. Before 12 years, the number of tons he bagged were several times his age. he was very fortunate that he was at Nalanda, during the time Sugunadasa Atukorala was the Principal.
From his childhood, Nelson Mendis was his coach, guide and teacher. When Mahanama was included in the First XI, certain parties hoisted white flags and even went to the low-level of carrying a coffin round the grounds to protest Mahanama playing in the First XI at a very young age in 1980s.
Cricket is an in-born habit - ("Sansaragatha Puruddha") to him. He forged ahead in total disregard to all obstacles that came his way at the very early stages. He represented Nalanda First XI with distinction for many years and scored 145 runs. in the Big Match against their arch rivals Ananda.
For the dashing Sri Lankan batting star Mahanama, a batting average of 29.27 from 52 Test might suggest a very modest record. He represented Sri Lanka for 15 years and his contribution is enormous.
I will never forget, at R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo in 1997/1998, Mahanama added 576 for the second wicket with Sanath Jayasuriya, the highest partnership in the annals of Test history. Further, they were the first pair to bat through two full day's of a Test, with Mahanama making 225 and Jayasuriya 340 as Sri Lanka piled up 952 for 6, another Test Record, surpassing 903 for 7 scored by England against Australia in 1938 at the Oval.
Mahanama was also part of the World Cup winning team in 1995/1996. In six matches he batted only three times, and made 80 runs without being dismissed, including a polished 58 in the Semi Finals against India at Eden Garden, Calcutta, which I witnessed as a Radio Commentator, was a hotbed of bloodthirsty fanaticism. They were a volatile assembly of spectators, disturbing the players. It was exciting to us in the Box.
Good player relies on bad balls Great players turn good balls to bad balls
I presume, there is a big difference between good players and great players. The good player relies on bad balls. The great players take good balls and turn them to bad balls. Mahanama was a great player. He looks for the gaps and gets the ball through vacant areas without any trouble. For a great player it is normal.
Taking pains over smallest details was the key that opened the door to his greatness. He was a perfectionist. He evolved a batting style of his own. He is a strange kind of personality, endowed with in-born capacity to win the hearts of the people through his pleasantries.
The best innings that I always cherish
One of the best ODI innings played by Roshan, that I have seen, was the one that I saw at the National Stadium, Karachchi in 1992. It was an innings of surpassing talent and power. It was an innings decorated by Mahanama's trade mark stroke - the drive through off-side, that he played with poise and precision. As a Sri Lankan Commentator, I still remember that great innings where he piled up 60 runs, dictating terms to Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. I described his power-packed innings, in the one-dayer. Opener Mahanama had ten boundaries. Unfortunately, he had to retire due to "Cramps".
Always a team man
Another great quality of Mahanama is that, he is always a great team man. He always put the country before self. Mahanama captained Sri Lanka in 1994, during the tour of Sharjah. In 1990 and 1995, he was the appointed vice captain.
Enough is enough - Retired Hurt
At time, I tend to believe that he retired from cricket, at a time, when the game was still vibrant in the blood.
He retired at a time when the popular demand for him was at a low-ebb. Probably, Mahanama would have thought "Enough is Enough".
Each time Mahanama suffered discarding, it created a popular stir among the general public. Again, he captured the minds of cricket fans with his thought-provoking autobiography "Retired Hurt".
With his initiative, Sri Lanka Cricketer Association was formed some years back and he was the first Secretary of the Association.
After he retired, he took upto cricket administration. He was once a member of the Interim Committee of the Cricket Board. He served as "A" team coach for sometime.
As an appreciation for service that Mahanama rendered, International Cricket Council appointed him in the elite panel of match referees.
His first appearance as a match referee was the West Indies versus Bangladesh in 2004, played at Gros islet and the ODI debut was also in the same year with the same two teams at Kingstown.
His parents are Upali Mahanama and Swarna Mahanama. Rohan is married and a father of three daughters.
Roshan's elder brother Devaka Mahanama played for Nalanda and later represented Bloomfield AC.
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