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Fiery Paceman Rumesh Ratnayake

Rumesh Ratnayake first represented Sri Lanka against India and thus began his illustrious international Cricket career in 1982/1983.

He possesses a unique record. He is the only Sri Lankan cricketer to play in four countries India, Zimbabwe, Australia and New Zealand, as a schoolboy.

Rumesh Ratnayake is a fiery paceman and one of the finest fast bowlers that Sri Lanka has produced.

Unassuming, soft spoken, God-fearing Rumesh is an ornament to Sri Lanka cricket.

Rumesh joined St Peter’s College one of the leading schools in Sri Lanka in 1964.

As a tiny tot, he played cricket in the Primary Section.

He first learned the basis of bowling under his beloved teacher Sunil Jayatunga.

Then, Rumesh was coached by Benjamin Leonidas, a great cricketer, who represented Maradana St Joseph’s College in the late 1930s.

Father Chris Abeyratne too encouraged him to play cricket, when Rumesh was a junior.

Rumesh Ratnayake was born in Colombo on January 2, 1964.

His beloved parents are Roger Ratnayake and Maureen Ratnayake.

Rumesh’s two sisters are Rushitha and Rehana.

When he graduated to play in the First XI of St Peter’s College, he was coached by Dr H I K Fernando, Brian Seneviratne, Anton Sethupathy and Michael Chanmugam.

As in the case of many cricketers, Rumesh too, started playing cricket with his friends in his home compound.

As he was keen to bat, he bowled fast to get them out early.

In 1975, he went to see Sri Lanka - West Indies cricket match played at the Colombo Oval, with his uncles.

After witnessing the rhythmic run-up and the express bowling of Andy Roberts and Bernard Julian, he was fascinated and his ambition was to be a fast bowler of repute.

In 1980-81 school cricket season, he captured 111 wickets in 12 school matches and erased Anandian Kamal Dharmasiri’s record of 106 wickets for a school session. At that time, he was the fastest bowler in school cricket.

I can still remember an incident how he felled Anandian Arjuna Ranatunga at Ananda Grounds, while playing for St Peter’s with a well-length vicious bumper.

Rumesh Ratnayake played for Nandescript Cricket Club as a junior school cricketer.

Abu Fuard, Ranjit Fernando and W A H Silva helped him and guided him in his early years in the club-circuit.

Rumesh Ratnayake first played for NCC under the captaincy of Ranjit Fernando.

Ranjit was the guiding light to many Sri Lankan cricketers.

Indo-Sri Lanka First Test played at Chennai and the ODI played at Bangalore is still etched in my mind, as I commentated this series for Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation in 1982.

I remember this young Test bowler - Rumesh, who replaced injured Asantha de Mel in the One Day International played at Bangalore.

Rumesh Ratnayake has caught many international cricketers unawares with his express deliveries.

Some of his notable victims were New Zealand opener John Wright in 1983 (broken nose), West Indian batsman Larry Gomes (bashed lip) in 1985. Clive Lloyd, the West Indian legend, too had two stitches on his head.

Rumesh Ratnayake’s most memorable contribution to Sri Lanka cricket came into limelight in 1985 when Sri Lanka recorded the first ever Test victory against India. He took a brilliant diving catch off his own bowling to dismiss Kapil Dev. With that brilliant catch, all hell broke out.

I was fortunate to describe that victory over the air waves of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation as a commentator.

I have witnessed and commentated on his brilliant heroics.

It was the year 1989. I was commentating from Sharjah for the Australasia Tournament. It was the India - Sri Lanka match. Sri Lanka was on the verge of defeat. The sixth wicket fell when Ravi Ratnayake was dismissed. Sri Lanka’s victory target was about 60 runs in the last five overs - 12 runs per over. Gutty Rumesh Ratnayake joined skipper Arjuna Ranatunga. He blasted three sixes off Kapil Dev and one off Prabakhar. I still remember one of the sixes nearly hit the ‘Gulf News’ Advertising Board Jackpot, where a big sum of Dirams were painted. Any player who hit the spot to survive the sum will be a millionaire.

Anyhow, Arjuna and Rumesh guided Sri Lanka to an unbelievable, amazing victory.

The alliance between these two, Arjuna and Rumesh, was the best power-packed innings I have seen so far.

In his distinguished Test career, he captured 73 wickets.

In 1989/90, Rumesh Ratnayake, returned the best figures - 6 for 16, against Australia, at Hobart, Tasmania.

Then in 1991, against England, he captured 5 for 56 at Lords and scored a half a century. Rumesh collected 75 wickets in One Day Internationals.

After retiring from cricket, Rumesh took upto coaching.

He was in charge of fast-bowlers clinics sometime back.

This concept of coaching clinics for pace-bowlers was started during Thilanga Sumathipal’s tenure of office as the President of the Board of Control of cricket in Sri Lanka.

This helped the promotion of cricket in outstations and it will bear fruit in the future.

In training and coaching young pace-bowlers, he adopted a scientific method.

He gave them schedules relating to their weights, running etc.

Further, he monitored whether they have the correct mechanics in their actions.

For example, a pace-bowler falling off, hyper extension, mixed actions, are damaging and harmful for the bowlers.

Currently, Rumesh Ratnayake is the Development Officer of Asian Cricket Council.

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