Ranjit Fernando September 12, 2010

From autograph hunter to mike wielder

The Sri Lankan cricketer-turned-commentator on awards, idols and more

First cricketing idol
Frank Worrell has always been my greatest cricketing hero. I still think of him as the most admired cricketer and a tremendous role model. His ability to lead a group of West Indians who had tremendous talent, and to mould them into a team of world champions is his greatest contribution. The tied Test is something that made cricket what it is today.

First autograph
My first memory of taking an autograph is that of Vijay Merchant. A cousin much older than me was a great collector of cricket autographs and had a massive collection. He prompted me to write to cricketers. Somehow or the other I wrote in to Uday Merchant, the brother of Vijay. Uday sent me Vijay Merchant's autograph signed on a photograph. I still probably have that autograph.

First one-dayer
The World Cup was something we never dreamt we would play. It was a dream come true. Fortunately for us, just before the World Cup, maybe in December 1974, Clive Lloyd's team came to India, and they came and played matches in Sri Lanka . Quite against the grain, we did extremely well against them. They had the likes of Andy Roberts, Vanburn Holder and Keith Boyce were in the team. In some of the games we got the better of them. So when we went for the World Cup we were not over-awed, at least in our minds, but the West Indians virtually annihilated us in the first match we played.

First cricketing award
School cricket in Sri Lanka is really the nursery of our cricket; it's something I consider the best in the world. I don't think of any way Sri Lanka cricket can be shaken since it is so deeply rooted. In 1963 or 1964I was adjudged the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. I also won awards for best batsman and best wicketkeeper that year. There were some outstanding school cricketers then. My friend and colleague Anura Tennekoon was one of them and some of the others who played during that time were also in the Sri Lankan team with me.

First commentary job
My entry to commentary was to a great extent prompted by my good friend Sunil Gavaskar. This was when India visited Sri Lanka. It was the first time ESPN-Star did live commentary on those games. We did Tests and thee afternoon sessions of one-dayers. It was very low-key commentary, totally relaxed, on a mike in a virtually open stand. There was not even a commentary box. From then on I sort of graduated to the next level, to a time when I probably did every Sri Lankan game wherever it was being played. It was something I enjoyed, and I've met some lovely peoples and that's really what cricket is about.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

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