22 February 2012

The Ranjan Madugalle Column

Ranjan Madugalle remembers Jagath Fernando’s classic 160 not out in the 1971 Royal-Thomian.  I remember being at that match and I remember savouring the scorecard of that match in the 1972 Royal souvenir which had just one dampener, Gajan Pathmanathan being out at 97.  Ranjan remembers Gajan getting out. 
I remember Ranjan walking back after a poor show in the middle in the Big Match of 1975.  He was just 15 then.  Tiny.  I remember reading about his exploits in Pakistan the following year when as a 16 year old he took 8 wickets to help Sri Lanka’s Under 19 team annex the Ali Bhutto trophy.  I can’t remember remembering this fact more acutely than when Mahinda Halangoda and Chandi Richards denied Royal a win in the Centenary Match (1979). I wished Ranjan, who captained Royal in that match, had brought himself on. 
I was just 11 years old then and the controversy surrounding his selection for the Ali Bhutto Trophy game went over my head.  I remember thinking, years later, when the issue was brought up, ‘yes, maybe it was unfair, but he was given an opportunity and seized it with both hands’.  The fact is, Ranjan was a phenomenal talent. 
Cricket captains were held in awe by schoolboys.  Ranjan Madugalle captained twice and was such a performer that he walked or was thought to walk a few inches off the ground unlike other cricket captains.  The fact is, he was always grounded. 
He was very fond of my mother, who was his teacher and who claimed she had carried him as a baby.  I was known, therefore.  I remember Ranjan once catching me on the corridor.  Our class (7F) was next to the prefects’ room and Ranjan was the Head Prefect.  He asked me a question and not having heard what he said I said (in a questioning tone) ’….aaah?’  He said that there was no such word and that if I didn’t hear, I must say so.  A few weeks later he caught me on the corridor.  He mumbled something.  I started with the habitual ‘aaah?’ and quickly changed to ‘what?’  He smiled and said ‘that’s better!’ 
I remember Ranjan and Arjuna Ranatunga saving Sri Lanka’s blushes in the first innings of the first ever test (1982, P.Sara Stadium against England).  I remember listening to the commentary when he scored his maiden hundred (against India) and how the commentator observed that he had got out ‘to a shot by a tired man’.  I remember listening to the commentary during the classic partnership he put together for NCC with Sridharan Jeganathan.  I went for the first test but the other two incidents were random – I hardly ever listened to the radio. 
I remember Ranjan losing his cool only once, when he was hitting the Australian attack to all corners of the field and got into a war of words with Rodney Hogg.  I think Hogg bounced him and it annoyed Ranjan.  I think Hogg got his wicket and had choice things to say to Ranjan as he walked away.  I remember Ranjan stopping in his tracks to (presumably) exchange ‘pleasantries’ with Rodney.  I can’t remember if we won or lost but I think either Ranjan won it for us or else brought us close. 
I met Ranjan a couple of days ago when I went to meet my oldest friend, Rajitha Dhanapala.  He said he was at the Royal-Thurstan match.  When we were chatting he had seen Ranjan.  I hadn’t seen him since my mother’s funeral a little over two years ago, so we strolled to the other end of the ground passing the J.R.Jayewardena pavilion to where he was sitting with several other old Royalists, cricketers all, among them Jagath Fernando, Jehan Mubarak and Zulki Hameed.
He recognized both of us, got up and greeted us.  He greeted me as ‘Mister Editor’.   So we talked about ‘The Nation’ and I asked him to write a column.  He said that Sa’adi Thawfeek, our Sports Editor had made the same request many times but that he was constrained by contractual agreement (with the ICC).  He added, ‘I asked Sa’adi what had happened to you since I didn’t see your articles and he said “we told him to stick to one paper instead of writing to all the newspapers like a prostitute”.’   We had a good laugh over it, and I told him that these days the first article to get the chop for lack of space is mine. 
Getting back to ‘columns’, he said that I could write his obituary notice (for free).  I laughed and said I will write an appreciation.  We don’t know when death comes, so I don’t know if I would be around to do either, so I thought I would write this now. 
A year ago, almost, I wrote an article for the ‘Daily News’ titled ‘On Ranjan Madugalle’s ‘lesson’ in 1982’.  It was something he said when invited by the then Principal of Royal College, L.D.H. Peiris to be a guest speaker at the school assembly.  This is what he said:
‘Whenever I am out of form, getting out cheaply or to poor shots, I revert to the fundamentals.  I go back to the nets. I check my stance. I check the back-lift.  Things like that.  Invariably, I start performing better.  That is a life lesson. Whenever we go wrong, it is good to ask yourself if you’ve got the fundamentals wrong.  Basic things like discipline. Like values.  You will always find that that’s where the problem lies.  That is what needs to be corrected.’
Ranjan Madugalle is not a columnist.  He is not allowed to write or speak to the media.  He spoke to me about the things that people who have known each other for more than 30 years talk about.  Light banter. 
He’s written his ‘column’ in the middle of the ground and outside the boundary line.  He was a technically sound batsman.  He was sound.  He is sound.  Day in and day out.  And that, my friends, counts for a daily column running continuously for over thirty years. 



Anonymous said...

I also remember going to his house to greet him the day before Roy-Tho in 1978 and 1979. He rudely refused to acknowledge the "Cycle Parade" ignoring tradition.

Anonymous said...

In 1979, he was at the opening of the centenery carnival which he couldn't miss as the Head Prefect. That's why he wasn't at home when the cycle parade arrived. Those who organized the parade should have planned it better!

Anonymous said...

No wonder...all are Royalists

Mahesha thrimanne said...

Good to read about memories. Thanks Malinda for taking usus back to school.

All Lions Sports Club said...

True that he is a gentleman. I remember once in 1986 i think, my aunty was admitted to the Cardiologist ward at the GH and Ranjan had a relative admitted in the next bed to my aunty. Having known that i was a keen SL cricket fan, my aunty asked the relative whether they can obtain an autograph from Ranjan for me. He obliged and not only that, when he took it back to the hospital, my aunty was discharged, so he found out the address and delivered it to my aunties house for me. Such a humble legend!!!!True Royalist and i am privileged to say that i was there to for my A'Levels much later in 92-95.

Anonymous said...

I can still remember Ranjan's first Test century against India. Actually, he was run out without scoring. But, umpire Ponnadurai gave him not out despite he was short of crease almost 01 meter..... Hope Ranjan too can remember that incident...but for me his best innings was when he scored 142 not out against England in the three day practice match in Kandy few days prior to inaugural Test match. Before that match, Ranjan's position in the test team was not certain with series of low scores.