Five Firsts

Cricketers on their milestones

Ranjit Fernando

From autograph hunter to mike wielder

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

Interview by Siddarth Ravindran

Comments: 14 | Text size: A | A
Ranjit Fernando, July 10, 1998
Ranjit Fernando: a Worrell fan © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Ranjit Fernando
Teams: Sri Lanka

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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Comments: 14 
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Posted by Neeraj on (September 13, 2010, 8:49 GMT)

How dare any of you call this man the "Worst Commentator" when L Sivaramakrishnan is still allowed near a mic?!?!? Seriously, though, Ranjith is alright. A bit bland but hardly the worst. His voice is not offensive like Siva and he doesn't make you automatically search for the mute button on the remote. Maybe Russel Arnold and Ranil are better, but Ranjith isn't all that bad.

Posted by bharath74 on (September 13, 2010, 4:26 GMT)

The worst commentators of all time are Russel Arnold, L Sivaramakrishnan, Arun Lall, and Ian Healy. The worst umpire of the world goes to Patriotic Kumara Dharmasena Maharaj. Ranjit Fernando gives honest opinions, i like him, he is a true ambassador of Srilankan Cricket.

Posted by Rusty on (September 13, 2010, 4:02 GMT)

Ranjith is not the worst, that mantle goes to Sunil Gavaskar, who commentates like he played the game, only for himself and his country.......the only problem I see with Ranjith is that he repeats what his fellow commentators say about 20 seconds after them....examples like 'corridor or uncertainty' or 'Neck of the woods' which I am sure he picked up from Greig and company.

Posted by Indi on (September 13, 2010, 3:23 GMT)

He must be one of the worst cricket commentators ever. You can see he is a very nice person but this is not the job for him. Doesn't know much about his own country Sri Lanka. Not many of his own thoughts regarding what's happening on the field either. Sometimes I had the impression he was reluctant to voice his own opinion against some of his fellow commentators like Ian Botham. Almost like he was scared.

Posted by GS on (September 12, 2010, 23:57 GMT)

Can you name a Good Commentator who is way ahead of Ranjit from this lot:Arun Lal,Lsivaramakrishnan,Saba Karim,Suresh Saraiya,K Srikkant(lucky he is muddying the selections now and we are spared of opinionated Comments). Todays Commentators do not comment on Game but how close are they to each player and Recapitulate what they read from coaching boks and bit of Astrology(Pitch Report). Ranjit is at least a honest Trier!

Posted by Vikram on (September 12, 2010, 20:04 GMT)

I think PartyMan is being generous. Ranjit Fernando is not one of the worst ever commentators; he is the definition of 'worst'.

Posted by Charindra on (September 12, 2010, 19:00 GMT)

Not the greatest commentator, but he was the fielding coach of SL in the early '90s, faced the West Indians as an opening batsman in the '70s without any helmets, was manager of SL at one time and overall contributed a LOT to SL cricket. And for better or worse, he WAS the voice of SL in the international arena for almost 2 decades.

Posted by Dummy4 on (September 12, 2010, 18:54 GMT)

Russel Arnold is da best among SL comentators. RF is just describing. His homework is bad. Doesn't know things about Sri Lanka. It is a big deficiency. He needs to improve a lot

Posted by Mahilal on (September 12, 2010, 16:46 GMT)

Not very niice 'Partyman'. He may be not be the best but certainly not the worst. SL now have Ranil Abeynaike who I agree is better. Ranjit does seem a bit demented - the West Indian tour he mentioned was February 1975. I remember watching Viv Richards (he had just come on the scene then) hitting 6's effortlessly - had to be live at the small CCC ground as SL did not have TV then!

Posted by Dimuthu on (September 12, 2010, 13:55 GMT)

lol @Partyman. he's not the best for sure, but i would hardly call him the worst. Sri Lankans call him the parrot since he pretty much just repeats what the other commentators have just said. But at least he's not biased towards SL and keeps a pretty neutral, albeit boring, point of view.

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