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November 20, 2007
Marvan Atapattu, one of Sri Lanka's finest batsmen, has finished his eventful tour of Australia by ending his international career. Atapattu announced his retirement in a letter to Duleep Mendis, the Sri Lanka Cricket chief executive, before lunch on the final day of the second Test in Hobart.
He was due to face a hearing on his return to Sri Lanka for his outburst during the opening match in Brisbane when he said the Sri Lankan selectors were "muppets headed by a joker". Despite the complaints about the administration, he retained the support of his team-mates and signed off with a satisfying 80 as he gave Sri Lanka a chance of saving the second Test.
The decision is not a surprise as there have been reports he will lead Delhi Jets in the Indian Cricket League and he is also considering playing for the St George club in Sydney grade cricket. He has had a difficult relationship with the selectors since coming back from a serious back injury and was picked for the World Cup but did not play a game. He then refused to join the squad when chosen for the Bangladesh Test series and joined the touring party to Australia only after government intervention.
Atapattu, who was Sri Lanka's most determined batsman during the series, praised his former national captains for their support and also recognised the help of his players during his time as captain. "Last but not least I thank the cricket-loving public of Sri Lanka and overseas for their continuous support during the best and worst times," he wrote to Mendis.
Mahela Jayawardene, the captain, was surprised by Atapattu's decision and said there were emotional scenes in the dressing room when he told his team-mates. "He made a strong comeback after not playing for some time and was very determined to show what he was capable of," Jayawardene said. "He proved that to a lot of people. The work ethic he had was incredible. It's sad, but he made a very good speech in the dressing room."
Jayawardene was pleased Atapattu was able to make the decision on his future on his own terms. "You've got to respect that," he said. "He felt it was the right time to leave Sri Lanka cricket and give others the opportunity. He made that decision himself, that was great."
This match was Atapattu's 90th and he finished with 5502 runs at 39.02, including an amazing six double-centuries. He struck 16 hundreds overall and 17 half-centuries, including one each in Brisbane and Hobart. A careful and technically correct player, Atapattu made his debut in 1990-91 in awful fashion, with his first six Test innings yielding five ducks and a single. He was persisted with in the mid-nineties and scored his maiden ODI and Test hundreds in succession, both against India. His success in the limited-overs game ensured his place in the Test side despite a 13-match slump after his 108 against India, but he shrugged it off with the first of six double-centuries, against Zimbabwe in early 1998.
He soon cemented his place as an opening batsman, with his ability to graft providing the perfect foil to Sanath Jayasuriya's dashing approach at the top of Sri Lanka's Test line-up. Continued success in both forms of the game earned him recognition as a fighter. After being Jayasuriya's understudy for three years, Atapattu was made captain of the ODI side in April 2003. The Test captaincy followed a year later and after various series wins, especially in late 2004 and early 2005, Atapattu was widely credited for bringing a new emphasis upon personal responsibility.
A chronic back problem hampered him throughout his career and forced him out of a lot of cricket. He soon lost to the captaincy to Jayawardene as he fell out of favour with the national selectors. For Atapattu, 2007 was a year of turmoil and he is now reportedly interested in various future projects, including the soon-to-start Indian Cricket League, being a commentator for Channel Nine in Australia and playing grade cricket in Sydney.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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