Atapattu: A missed opportunity for a triple hundred

Sri Lanka's Marvan Atapattu may have started his international career in disastrous fashion, recording five ducks in his first six Test innings, but he is now riding high and is widely acknowledged to be Sri Lanka's most technically accomplished player.

During the recent Test match against Bangladesh the 30 year-old-Sri Lankan vice captain completed his fifth international double hundred, a feat accomplished by only three other players - Sir Don Bradman, Wally Hammond and Javed Miandad - in the history of Test cricket.

Marvan Atapattu hits a ball on his way to making 201

In a recent interview with CricInfo, Atapattu discussed various issues, from his disappointing start to his career to his growing reputation as a "big score" player.

These are the excerpts of the interview.

Q. How do you feel about the way things are going for you in international cricket at the moment?

"The team is doing well and I am happy to be one of the 11 players who are doing well am feeling great about the way things have gone for us in recent times."

Q. How about being the vice captain of the side? How do you look at this role?

"Many people are asking about it but personally, for me, being the deputy is not a big deal. I know my responsibilities. Even if the duties are taken off from me I'll be doing the same things with the bat or in the field. It's not a big deal. I take it game by game, I try to do the little things I know best"

Q. In recent times we have seen your appetite for big scores. From the eight hundreds you've got, you've converted five into double tons. Your comments about your desire to go for big scores?

"In the longer version of the game I believe that you should go on once you have made a start. That's what I do. Never satisfied, always wanting to go on and improve. Also, there have been many instances where I have got out for low scores. On many occasions I have got out below 10. So, when I get a start, I think you've got to make amends for your earlier failures and try to go on."

Q. You yourself admit that you've got out below 10 on many occasions. In fact in your Test career from the 84 innings you've played, you have been dismissed below 10 on 34 occasions. Does that mean that you are a shaky starter?

"I am an opener and when you face the new ball bowlers fresh that can happen. That's the way I take it. But now you'll tell me that's not the case with all the openers. Yes, each batsman is different. You see if you get out for a good ball you can't help it. It's important to survive the initial burst and once you do it it's a matter of going on and making a big one."

Most of the batsmen get out quickly after getting the hundred. How hard do you work to continue after passing the hundred?

"I think the important thing is concentration. I concentrate very hard in the middle even after passing the 100 mark. After going past the 100 mark, I think I am on zero and start to work from that point. After sometime I find another hundred on the board. As I said earlier there have been too many occasions where I have got out for low scores, but when I have had the opportunity I have made the most of it."

Q. You have scored four of those five double hundreds at home where it's extremely hot and the conditions are really tough. How demanding it is physically?

"To be very honest with you I have not felt that uneasy. That's basically because I enjoy my stay in the middle. One of the other reasons I think why I don't get physically tired is due to fact that I collect most of my runs through singles and twos and more importantly I rotate the strike. So up to now it's not been that hard."

Q. What do you reckon as your best double hundred?

"The best was the one I got in Kandy against an awesome Pakistani attack which comprised of Wasim, Waqar, Razzaq and Mustaq Ahamed. I cherish that innings. We were two down in the series and I was hit byWasim early on. It was my best innings overall."

Q. So many double hundreds, but not a single triple hundred?

"Like to get one before ending the career. Any batsman would love to have it. If I can get a triple hundred before ending the career that would be a dream come true."

Q. Well you had the chance to make a triple hundred against Bangladesh, but you retried having made the 200?

"Unfortunately most of us didn't realise that. I was asked to retire there. As you say, there was the chance to get a 300, but didn't realize how important it can be after a couple of years. When Bangladesh improve it wouldn't look as bad as it looks now. We never thought about it and I definitely missed a chance there."

Q. Do you regret it?

"Yes. Now when I think about it I regret. The team management came out with that idea to retire. They gave me the chance to make the 200 and then they said you better retire and give the others a chance and we'll finish this game off. But that's how it goes and people learn by their mistakes."

Q. If we analyse your career, you've got a good average of 47 at home. But away from Sri Lanka it's a paltry 29. Your comments?

"Well if you analyse with most of the players that'll be the case. Most of the batsmen will have a healthy average at home and a not so good one away from home. But I admit that I have not been consistent outside the country. I am looking forward to improve."

Once again some analyses show that you have prospered in the first innings, when you average over fifty, but struggled in the second innings, when you average only 17 or 18?

"That's something I realised very recently. In fact, it was one of the employees of the cricket board who pointed that out. I gave that a serious thought and I wonder how I didn't realise that until someone else pointed that out. If you ask me the reason, I think I relax a bit. And also there's a psychological aspect I guess. If I fail in the first innings the confidence will be down and I'll then fail in the second as well. That's an area I badly want to improve on in the longer version of the game."

Q. Let's talk about your earlier days. I don't think you would want to talk about that too much. But anyway it was a disastrous start and how difficult was it and what sort of things were going on in your mind at that stage?

" Words merely can't express what I felt and the pressure that I was under. It was a very difficult period. But in a way I am happy about that. I didn't get the easy runs some of these guys are getting at the highest level. If God had given me them early on I don't think I may not have worked has hard as I have on my game. I knew that it's a matter of just one innings and I had to wait for seven long years for that one innings."

Q. Do you feel that you were pushed too early onto the international scene?

"I don't think so. It can happen for a bowler, but I don't think that it applies for a batsmen. There are so many batsmen who have started very young and done remarkably well. But it's different for the bowlers."

Q. Do you say that the hard times you had early on helped you to be a better cricketer?

"Yes. I realised how hard it is to make just one run at this level. Personally, for me, to get off the mark makes a huge difference. I don't know whether you all can see it from our side, but for me as soon as I get off the mark things start happening. My feet start moving and I happen to find the middle of the bat. I don't know whether it's purely psychological but the truth of the matter is that. Once I get off the mark I feel really comfortable."

Q. Any future goals?

"Not really. What I want to do is just try and be in the side as long as I can. As long as my body can meet the demands of international cricket I want to represent the country."