Marvan Samson Atapattu
November 22, 1970, Kalutara
Right hand bat
A vulnerable starter, Atapattu showed immense strength of character once he got his eye in. On a lifeless pitch, he was a master of the percentage game, his caution a useful counterpoint to the risks taken by Sanath Jayasuriya, his opening partner almost throughout his Test career. All his big Test innings - he scored six double-hundreds in his career, a feat bettered only by Don Bradman (12), Wally Hammond and Brian Lara (seven each) - were been slow affairs but the most tortuous episode of his international career was its start: it took him nearly seven years to get established. However, since the 1990s his average climbed upwards. An elegant player to watch, Atapattu's signature shot was his high-elbow cover-drive.
For three years he stood as Jayasuriya's understudy before being appointed to lead the one-day side in April 2003. He had been expected to take charge of the Test team as well, but the selection committee appointed Hashan Tillakaratne for that job. Atapattu's career took another bizarre twist later in the year when embroiled in the cash-in-the-bedroom affair in which a match-fixing investigation was initiated after a large sum of cash was discovered in the safe of the hotel room he had occupied during England's tour in 2003. The ICC later cleared Atapattu of any wrongdoing and the likeliest explanation for the mystery remains a crude attempt to blacken his reputation.
But by early 2004 the team was drifting downwards under Tillakaratne and the selectors were finally compelled to appoint Atapattu as the Test captain. Within weeks he had halted the team's slide and established himself as a strong leader. On the surface a quiet and reserved character, his captaincy pedigree was not entirely obvious to the outsider, but within the dressing-room he was a straight-talking and positive captain, firm and fair in his dealings with the players and aggressive in his approach to the game. By mid-2004 the fortunes of the team had changed as Sri Lanka won the Asia Cup and whitewashed South Africa. The team fared poorly in the ICC Champions Trophy but perked up against Pakistan in October 2004.
But Atapattu's capacity for attracting the unexpected continued when, out of the blue, Ashantha de Mel, the new government-appointed chairman of selectors, launched a scathing attack on the team management on the eve of the Paktel Cup in 2004-05, accusing them of blocking his attempts to blood new players. Atapattu wisely steered clear of a public confrontation, though his relationship with the selectors remained prickly.
His career was put on hold by a back injury early in 2006 which led to Mahela Jayawardene taking on the captaincy. He was slowly reintroduced to the one-day side, but his tussles with the selectors continued. He was a late inclusion on the Australian tour following a ministerial intervention to bring him into the squad, but midway through the series he hit out at the selectors again, calling them "a set of muppets headed by a joker". He scored two half-centuries in the series, including 80 in the second innings in Hobart, but announced his retirement from international cricket on the last day of the Test.
Atapattu then joined the unofficial Indian Cricket League, playing for the Delhi Giants and ICL World XI. A ban on he and four other Sri Lankans was lifted in September 2008, meaning Atapattu was free to play domestic cricket back home.
Since retirement from all cricket, Atapattu has forged a reputation as a technically adroit and hard-working batting coach, particularly for his work with the Sri Lanka team. He has been the national side's batting coach since 2011, and was promoted to the position of assistant coach in March 2013. In the wake of Paul Farbrace's sudden departure from the head coach position a year later, Atapattu was appointed the interim head coach for the away tour of England, and the home tour against South Africa, in July.
Cricinfo staff September 2008
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