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Arjuna, first Test player to head Sri Lanka cricket

Dharmadasa resigns to pave way for 'Captain Cool':

Sri Lanka's World cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga will become the first Test cricketer to head the island's national controlling body for cricket.

The veteran cricketer turned politician is set to take over as Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) Interim Committee from today. Jayantha Dharmadasa, who was the SLC Interim Chief for almost three years, tendered his resignation yesterday, paving way for Ranatunga to take over.

However, in his letter of resignation to the Secretary of the Ministry of Sports, Dharmadasa has cited 'personal reasons' for his stepping down.

Leading businessman, Dharmadasa was appointed as the SLC Interim Committee chairman on March 24, 2005 by then Minister of Sports Jeewan Kumaranatunga, who sacked the democratically elected SLC Ex-Co headed by Mohan de Silva.

A few changes in the SLC Interim Committee too are likely with Ranatunga in the saddle. Ranatunga, who is also a ruling party Parliamentarian and a former Deputy Minister, is expected to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa before his formal appointment as the new SLC Interim Committee Chief.

It is understood that Ranatunga has requested to have a couple of experienced persons in his committee, but no final decision has been taken yet. The other members of the SLC Interim Committee which functioned under Dharmadasa were K. Mathivanan (Secretary), Sujeeva Rajapaksa (Treasurer), Dian Gomes, Premasara Epasinghe and former Sri Lanka Test opener Sidat Wettimuny.

When contacted by the 'Daily News' on New Year's eve, Ranatunga said he has several plans to resurrect Sri Lanka cricket. "I have several plans. Once I assume duties, I will have to discuss those at length with my committee members. It's too early to elaborate until we start moving," he said.

Ranatunga, who turned 44 on December 1, had a short stint as Chairman of the SLC Cricket Committee under the Dharmadasa administration. But he resigned from the committee, which had several reputed former Sri Lanka Test players, stating that he was not happy at the way it progressed.

Better known as 'Captain Cool' during his playing days, Ranatunga led Sri Lanka's 1996 champion World Cup team which beat Australia by seven wickets in the final played in Lahore on March 17, 1996.

Incidentally, the chief guest who presented that glittering Cup to Ranatunga to take Sri Lanka to the pinnacle of world cricket - then Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated last Thursday.

As a schoolboy cricketer, Ranatunga made a dream debut, scoring the first ever Test half century by a Sri Lankan in the inaugural Test against England at the Sara Stadium in 1982. Ever since, he had been a vital ingredient in the Sri Lanka team.

Representing Sri Lanka in 93 Tests, Ranatunga has aggregated 5,105 runs at an average of 35.69 with four centuries and 38 fifties. Making his debut with a courageous 42 against England in 1982, Ranatunga went on to play in 269 one day internationals, aggregating 7,456 runs at an average of 35.84 with four centuries and 49 fifties. With his gentle medium pace bowling, Ranatunga has also captured 79 ODI wickets and 16 Test wickets.

During his tenure as Sri Lanka captain, Ranatunga led from front and gave an able leadership to the national team. Among the most notable actions in his career as captain was witnessed when his ace spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was called for throwing in Australia. Ranatunga retired from international cricket in August, 2000.

His brothers - Dhammika, Nishantha and Sanjeewa have represented the Sri Lankan national team, either in Tests or ODIs/ or in both forms.

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