Anura Ranasinghe 1956-1998 November 11, 1998

Anura Ranasinghe dies in his sleep

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

Anura Ranasinghe, who died in his sleep on Monday night, was one of the finest all-round cricketers produced by Sri Lanka and the first schoolboy to play in the World Cup.

Ranasinghe never had the chance to fulfil his potential to the full at the highest level, because eight months after Sri Lanka had played their inaugural Test with England in February 1982, he went to South Africa with a Sri Lanka rebel side and along with 13 other players who undertook that tour was banned for a period of 25 years.

The ban virtually ended his career as a cricketer, and Ranasinghe was never the same again until six months ago, when his club Bloomfield appointed him as the coach of their Under-23 and division III teams.

Ranasinghe accompanied Bloomfield to Galle for their U-23 23 fixture last weekend. He returned home on Monday and having foregone his lunch, went to sleep. He never woke up afterwards, according to his sister Rohini. He was only 42 years at the time of his untimely death.

Ranasinghe distinguished himself as a right-hand batsman and bowled left-arm medium-pace and slow spin. As an allrounder he was renowned for his fighting qualities, where on several occasions he had rescued his school Nalanda College and club from perilous situations with both bat and ball. Renowned radio commentator Premasara Epasinghe and Nelson Mendis were Ranasinghe's coaches at school through whom he learnt the rudiments of the game.

Ranasinghe created history in 1975 when he became the first schoolboy to play in a World Cup when he represented Sri Lanka in the inaugural tournament in England at the age of 18 years. He played in all three matches against West Indies, Australia and Pakistan.

He was unlucky not to make it to the final XI of Sri Lanka's inaugural Test against England at the Sara Stadium in February 1982 when another schoolboy from the rival school Ananda College, Arjuna Ranatunga got the vote ahead of him, and went on to score a maiden Test fifty.

Ranasinghe made his Test debut the following month against Pakistan at Faisalabad. He scored six and five (being caught on both occasions by Pakistan captain Javed Miandad) and sharing the new ball with Ashantha de Mel, captured the wicket of top scorer Ashraf Ali (58) for 23 runs. He played one other Test - against India at Chepauk that year - scoring an aggressive 77, before undertaking the illegal tour to South Africa.

Ranasinghe also appeared in nine one-day internationals scoring 153 runs (avg. 21.85) and taking two wickets (avg. 140.50) and toured England in 1981, when Sri Lanka were elevated to the ranks of a Test nation. He also captained the Sri Lanka Under-25 team to South India and successfully regained the Gopalan trophy against Tamil Nadu and also led Sri Lanka U-19s in the series against Pakistan in 1975 and 1976.

"Anura had rare qualities of being a top fielder and a dual purpose left-arm bowler," said Bandula Warnapura, Sri Lanka's first Test captain and former Bloomfield stalwart. "He was a fighter to the core and took up any challenge. He was a tough guy on the field and was very outspoken."

"He was a fine cricketer. Bloomfield has lost a good man," added Bloomfield president Shelley Wickramasingha.

Born in Colombo on October 13, 1956, Anura Nandana Ranasinghe was the fifth in a family of three brothers and three sisters. Two of his brothers - Lakshman Ranasinghe and Aruna Ranasinghe - were notable cricketers, representing Nalanda and Bloomfield.

For a short period, Anura worked at Pelawatte Sugar Corporation. He married and has a son aged 12 years old.

He is the second Test cricketer produced by Sri Lanka to depart, the first being Sritharan Jeganathan who passed away last year.

The Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka have undertaken the funeral arrangements. His funeral will take place at the general cemetery, Kirillapone tomorrow.