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Cricket stars pay homage to Anura Ranasinghe
 

A galaxy of former and present Sri Lanka Test and One-day International cricketers will line up at the R. Premadasa International Stadium today to pay homage to the late Nalanda and Sri Lanka cricketer Anura Ranasinghe in a day-night cricket encounter between the two leading Buddhist institutions Ananda and Nalanda.

The fact that virtually all the top cricketers produced by these two schools have agreed to break away from their busy schedules and make themselves available to play in this 40-overs a side encounter bears testimony to the character of Ranasinghe.

Two past Nalandians Asanka Gurusinha who appeared for the country in 41 Tests and 147 ODIs and Keerthi Ranasinghe who played in four ODIs are flying across from Australia and England respectively to play in this match which is further evidence of what Ranasinghe stood for.

Former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga has agreed to lead the Ananda team despite his official duties as Deputy Minister of Tourism.

He was the very epitome of a modern day Keith Miller, fearless and a fighter to the core. His never-say-die attitude is what drew so many cricketers and friends around him.

That Ranasinghe was lost to Sri Lanka cricket after just a handful of appearances (2 Tests and 9 ODIs) was due to the poor financial situation that prevailed at the time where the players received only a pittance compared to what they get at present.

The situation forced him to seek greener pastures, but instead of going to a country that his Cricket Board would have been comfortable with, Ranasinghe took the wrong turn and went to South Africa, which was at that time banned from international cricket because of their apartheid policies.

In that period it was anathema for any sports team to tour South Africa. The repercussions were so harsh for teams defying the bans that were imposed on them virtually meant the end of the road for any sportsman.

Ranasinghe who was then 26 and at the prime of his career found the 25-year-ban imposed by the Sri Lanka Cricket Board too harsh and his life simply disintegrated from there onwards. Cricket was his life and for Ranasinghe there was no life without cricket. He passed away at the prime of his life four days before his 42nd birthday on October 9.

It was a pity that the best years of his cricket was confined to the schools and under 19 level. Those who were fortunate enough to have seen him in his formative years saw the emergence of an all-rounder of immense potential. But his career was oh, so brief in the international sphere and cricket was the ultimate loser.

They say the good die young. So it was with Ranasinghe. At today's match the two schools will also pay respect to three other former stalwarts who shaped Nalanda cricket, Gerry Gunaratne, Sunil Jayasinghe and Roshan Guneratne.

The match will be telecast live by Rupavahini's Eye Channel and live commentaries will be broadcast by SLBC. The event is organised by the Nalanda Junior Old Boys' Association jointly with the Past Cricketers' Association.

Tickets priced at Rs. 2,500 have already been sold out according to the organisers. Still available are tickets priced at Rs. 350 (for family of five), Rs. 300 and Rs. 50. All proceeds are towards the Nalanda College gymnasium project with part of it going to the family of Ranasinghe.

The teams:

ANANDA (from): Arjuna Ranatunga, captain (93 Tests/269 ODIs), Sidath Wettimuny (23/35), Ajith de Silva (4/6), Brendon Kuruppu (4/54), Marvan Atapattu (85/231), Chandika Hathurusingha (26/35), Sanjeewa Ranatunga (9/13), Avishka Gunawardena (4/60), Dinuk Hettiaratchi (1/0), Tilan Samaraweera (30/15), Thilan Wijesinghe, Oshadi Weerasinghe, Nishantha Ranatunga (0/2), Hemantha Wickremaratne (0/3), Akalanka Ganegama (0/2), Thilina Kandamby (0/4), Muthumudalige Pushpakumara.

NALANDA (from): Bandula Warnapura, captain (4 Tests/12 ODIs), Lalith Kaluperuma (2/4), Roshan Mahanama (52/213), Asanka Gurusinha (41/147), Gamini Wickremasinghe (3/4), Kumara Dharmasena (31/141), Mahela Jayawardene (71/184), Shantha Kalavitigoda (1/0), Jayantha Seneviratne, Hemantha Devapriya, Keerthi Ranasinghe (0/4), Susantha Karunanayake, Sudharman de Silva, Ishara Amerasinghe, Shammi Silva.

UMPIRES: Asoka de Silva and Ranmore Martinesz, TV umpire: Sagara Gallage.

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