Arjuna shares memories and thoughts on Warne

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A few members of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team, including skipper Arjuna Ranathunga, were present here in Galle on Wednesday to show their respect to the late cricketing legend Shane Warne, as Sri Lanka Cricket held a ceremony to honour him by dedicating the first Test to Warne.

Following the ceremony, Ranathunga, who has played against Warne for years including 1996 World Cup final, shared his memories and thoughts about him, and said he was grateful to Warne for all the help done by him for Sri Lanka and the Galle venue following the 2004 tsunami, where he took the lead to rebuild the venue.

“We had a few run ins on the field, but we were good friends off the field. After the tsunami when the country was devastated, Shane was the first guy to come over and help us,” said Ranathunga to a group of media personnel during the match.

“There’s no doubt about his cricketing greatness, but he touched many Sri Lankan hearts when he came over after the tsunami and helped the people. The cricket public was saddened when he passed away. He played his cricket tough on the field, but was a friendly guy like most Australians off the field, and that’s the way it should be. His death is a huge loss to the cricketing world, not just for Australia. He was a brilliant student of the game and was ahead of his times,” added Ranathunga.

Ranathunga recalled the mental battle he had with Australia and how he got the better of them.

“That’s something we learned from Australia. When you go to Australia, they are very tough. We borrowed it from them and then used it on them on multiple occasions. One thing that we realised is that the Aussies are aggressive on the field. When you try and match that aggression, they tend to fall apart,” said Ranathunga.

Shane Warne’s first overseas tour was to Sri Lanka in 1992, and Ranathunga was the captain. Sri Lanka scored 547 in the first inning before declaring, but went on to lose the match by 16 runs, being bowled out for 164 in a chase of 181 where Warne claimed 3 for 11.

“Warne was picked at the right time. For his luck he had a very good captain in Allan Border. We knew that if he bowled well in the second innings we would struggle. Disappointed that we lost that Test by the narrowest of margins. But that’s how the game goes. In the very first innings itself we knew that he was special. You need to manage those special talents well. We had a few things to say, but we had mutual respect for each other,” said Ranathunga.

He further said he met Warne quite a few times after he retired and loved to listen to him.

“We had lot of discussions on cricket after we finished our careers. After we retired, I met him quite a few times when we were doing commentaries. I really liked to listen to him because he is very forthright. In commentaries you don’t find more guys telling it plainly where the younger generation can learn. Warney did that – he was very outspoken. He had an unbelievable cricket brain. He messaged me when I became a Minister and wished me. That’s why I say Aussies are tough on the field, but very friendly off the field,” said Ranathunga.

Ranathunga compared his star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and Warne, who battled for the world number one position throughout their careers.  

“Well, you see these guys played in different teams and they were so different. For example, Warney played a side that had guys like McGrath, Lee and Gillespie. Those guys had taken about three or four wickets by the time Warney had come onto bowl. However, in the case of Murali, apart from Vaasy (Chaminda Vaas) who takes a wicket or two, Murali had a tough task. He had to come on to bowl earlier. Sometimes he had to take from wicket number one to last man and that’s not easy.

They were great bowlers. One had a lot of time and opportunities to take wickets, while the other had to share his wickets with other fast bowlers. Shane had too many great bowlers in his team. In Sri Lanka, Murali just had one player who shared a rich haul of wickets with him. I think they had a good rivalry. Murali is a competitive guy and he wanted to take at least one wicket more than Warne. I thought that Murali gave his best when he played the Aussies,” said Ranathunga.

By Anjana Kalaurachchi in Galle