Arjuna Ranatunga’s finest hour as captain of Sri Lanka came in a limited overs tournament — the 1996 World Cup triumph. But Ranatunga has been a fan of Test cricket ever since he made his debut as an 18-year-old against England at Colombo in 1982.
Hence, it was not surprising that he bemoaned the devaluation of Test cricket caused by India’s 1-3 defeat to England in the third edition of the Pataudi Trophy on Sunday.
Ranatunga was known as one of the most astute captains in contemporary cricket. He read the game better than most of his contemporaries in the 1990s.
He refused to call for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s head and instead blamed the BCCI for the situation Indian cricket finds itself in. “I blame the BCCI for creating the IPL monster and pushing their cricketers towards money rather than getting them to think about their technique. I can’t see any Gavaskars, Vengsarkars, Azharuddins or Tendulkars being produced by India. This (defeat) is a huge eye-opener for India,” Ranatunga told mid-day from Colombo yesterday.
Ranatunga (51) was shocked with what the Indian batsmen dished out at the Oval on Sunday when they were dismissed for 94 in 29.2 overs to lose by an innings and 244 runs. “I think they (batsmen) are more concerned about playing the shorter version and probably thinking about the financial aspect; they are not adept at Test cricket. It was so unfortunate to see a player like Virat Kohli struggle. They must seek advice from some of the great technicians in Indian cricket.
“When I was a kid, I was thrilled to see Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Vishwanath, Mohinder Amarnath and Dilip Vengsarkar bat. They were icons. Now, if I go to a school in Sri Lanka and tell the young boys to watch one of the Indian players now and consider them icons, the kids will laugh at me. There will be no icons now and Indian cricket will suffer.”
‘BCCI must act swiftly’
Ranatunga urged the BCCI to take charge of the situation, introspect and act swiftly. He also condemned cricket administration in the main. “They need to open their eyes. The Supreme Court of India does not want N Srinivasan to be the president of the BCCI. Yet, ICC agreed to have him as chairman. I don’t know where cricket is heading. I am glad at least the Supreme Court had the power to do what they did,” he said.
His pet hate — the IPL — resurfaced in the conversation: “When the IPL started, I spoke out against the dangers. I felt that the importance of Test cricket will be peeled off. The IPL is absolutely rubbish.
“I was surprised to hear the so-called cricket pundits discussing what has happened in England. Some of the guys who are very much involved in the IPL have started now talking about the value of Test cricket.”