Here are the excerpts:
Cricket or ministry. Which do you prefer more?
I analyse both as something giving back to the country. I played 20 years of cricket for my country. I gave my entire life sacrificing lot of things. And it's same thing happening again. I don’t have fixed time or date for ministry. It's like 24/7. We were able to earn lot of profit last year. From 5bn to 11bn. We cut down corruption, expenditure. Workers are happy. So it's all about giving something back to the country. After I retired, I was wondering what can I give to the country. Then I was invited by the former lady president Chandrika Kumaratunga to get involved in politics. Actually she started to say I should get involved in sports. But I was never given an opportunity to get sports and the present president asked me to handle sports but I told that I am too old to handle sports at the moment. Then they only took the “s” out and gave me port (smiles).
You like Tests and don’t quite like the IPL T20 or the shortest format of the game. Why is that?
You will feel very sad when you watch cricket today. If you look at England, Australia or South Africa they (prefer) Test matches to ODIs or T20Is. I don’t know if we have the same attitude. I personally felt when the IPL started that it was power against technique. Brains against no brains. And it's all about entertainment rather than proper cricket. I cannot see players like [Sachin] Tendulkar, [Sunil] Gavaskar and Aravinda de Silva coming into cricket any more…it is more power hitting guys who come to entertain in T20Is and survive. But I still get happiness when I watch England playing Australia or Australia playing South Africa and the commitment they are giving. Even the public, how they come and watch, still they are coming to see Test matches. And I am scared about all the young cricketers, I am talking about U-13, U-15 and U-17. When they (avoid) looking at the technique aspect, ultimately cricket will go down. You need to have a technique to survive in top level. But in T20Is you don’t need a technique. Generally you could feel that you are producing cricketers who do not have technique. So in these days if you are a technically good batsman, you won't survive in the shorter formats any more. We could play 50-overs cricket and Test cricket. Luckily, we did not play T20Is. I know entertainment is essential but for me it's all about junk food compared to the proper meal cooked by your mother at home. Test cricket is proper meal prepared in home.
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Ranatunga addresses the media DHAKA TRIBUNE/Ali Shahriyar Amin
These days, players are retiring early for T20Is. How frustrating is that?
When I was playing, I considered winning for the country as the most important thing. I don’t know if we have the same attitude any more. I think most of the cricketers want to earn money. Most have the ambition of playing IPL or Big Bash. And for that, if they have to miss a tournament in Sri Lanka, they will go there. It never happened in our era. We did not have these IPL or T20Is when we were playing. But always, the 14 guys which played for Sri Lanka in the '96 World Cup, they were the most committed cricketers you can ever get. They were not bothered about getting money and prominence but they were concerned about winning. That’s why I was so lucky that I played cricket with those 13 cricketers.
What are your thoughts regarding Bangladesh and Sri Lanka cricket at the moment?
I think Bangladesh have improved a lot. I told three years ago that the way Bangladesh are going, they will beat Sri Lanka in Tests. And that happened in the series. Their commitment is good. I have played in Bangladesh for three seasons, in Mohammedan [Sporting Club Limited] in 1988-89. It felt good that they are doing well. I always told to improve school cricket when I played in Mohammedan. Concentrate in junior level otherwise your cricket structure will not survive. I think they have successfully implemented it so far. Some Sri Lankan coaches helped Bangladesh cricket in last decade. And the current coaches are doing well also. I think BCB is more focused than SLC at the moment.
The Lankans had a lot of firepower in the '96 side. Do you think that team could have won the World T20 now?
We might have done that. But it’s a totally different game. The game I never played I cannot comment on that. But generally we were the ones which started two opening batsmen who went after the bowling. If you take Kalu (Romesh Kaluwitharana) and Sanath [Jayasuriya], Kalu had a very good technique. Even Sanath had a decent technique. Then we had players like [Asanka] Gurusinha, Aravinda, [Roshan] Mahanama and [Hashan] Tillakaratne - they all had very good technique plus they could hit the ball hard. Today what I see, some of the players do not have good technique. So they would not survive in the longer version or they would not survive with good bowlers. It's all about power based cricket now.
The 2023 World Cup will be held in the subcontinent. Do you think Bangladesh can win the title?
Only thing they need to do is concentrate on the younger cricketers. They need to play a lot of “A” team cricket, they should do lot of U-19 tours. I personally believe they are on the right track. But they need more commitment from the younger players. They should plan for 2023. May be bring a top U-19 side. May be U-23 side. Allow them to play lots of cricket. Not mix them with national side. If they plan properly I think it could not be difficult to win the World Cup in the subcontinent. I always prefer that you should target semi-finals at first. Then after that, it's all about commitment and luck.
The Lankans seem to lack quality cricketers in the pipeline. What do you think is not clicking at the moment?
I give an example, when we won the World Cup in '96, Aravinda batted in No 4 and I batted in No 5. After Gurusinha’s retirement, we brought Marvan Atapattu in No 3. Then we brought Mahela Jayawardene in No 5 and I went down to No 6. Mahela got good support from me and Aravinda as he was batting between us in the order. Mahela could play his natural game as we were there to protect him. But unfortunately, that strategy did not follow in the last few years. [Tillakaratne] Dilshan, [Kumar] Sangakkara and Jayawardene batted in No 2, 3 and 4 respectively. They did not change their batting order. I will blame the selectors. We had Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal in the squad at that time. I think these two are still the best batsmen in the country. But they did not get chances at that time. And they were not protected at that time as well. The biggest example is Sanath Jayasuriya. To convert him into an explosive opener we were patient and gave him enough time. For Chandimal and Thirimanne I don’t think selectors have such kind of patience. You have to give them time and confidence. When a young player will understand that captain and selector have faith on him then he could play pressure-less cricket. As a captain I did that. I gave support to my players that if you get out while playing aggressive shot, the team are beside you. So play your natural cricket. And I also got support form selectors like Duleep Mendis, Ranjan Madugalle, etc.
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Ranatunga all smiles with the World Cup trophy INTERNET
Your thoughts on the current Sri Lanka-Bangladesh series?
Bangladesh played poorly in the Galle Test. But they bounced back well in the P Sara Oval Test. It is a matter of taking responsibility by players. The way openers batted, it was important. I think team will expect something like this from them. I think there is no problem regarding technique. It’s a matter of mentality. I think Bangladesh need one guy who can motivate them with proper mentality. As cricketers they are really good and talented. Batsmen have many shots in their hand. It is about proper mentality (pointing to head). And they have to adjust to it soon.
How do you rate Bangladesh's chances in the 2019 World Cup?
The World Cup will be in June-July in England, right? They have a few good pacers. They have some who can bowl at good pace, and they have a very good left-arm pacer, very promising. They need to plan to protect them till the World Cup and even till 2023. Their team will be very good for the next World Cup. They need a very good batsman for the middle-order. To win the World Cup they will have to find their own Aravinda de Silva.
Will you share some of your experiences from your visits to Bangladesh?
They really looked after me when I went in 1988. Every time I go there I know that. I played for Mohammedan for three seasons. One was a proper season, then two years I played maybe about five games and I was very well looked after by Bangladesh officials and fans. And I have lovely memories. I had some incidents...in one of the games I had an argument with a wicket-keeper (laughs), but it was fun. And I tell you honestly, the first time I walked out for Mohammedan it was fully packed in Dhaka. I had never seen a domestic cricket match with that kind of a crowd. And there was one guy I will always remember. One guy carried the tea for the entire stadium. He starts in the dressing room, one cup, the entire tea basket. Mohammedan-Abahani [Limited] was like a traditional rivalry. Two of my brothers played in Bangladesh. Nishanth played and Sanjiv also played, all three played. And I played a lot of cricket with [Minhajul Abedin] Nannu, Athar Ali [Khan] and most of the past cricketers and I have very fond memories. I haven’t been to Bangladesh for a long period, maybe I have to go as a minister for shipping now that I want to get more ships from Bangladesh to here, not the cricket part.
The advent of T20 cricket has paved the way for innovative strokes. How do you see this?
At that time we needed to create something new to win a World Cup. We were good cricketers, we had a very good bowling and fielding side, we had a very good batting side. So according to that we fixed the batting order. We got Sanath and Kalu to go and hit the ball, then Gurusinha to anchor the innings, then Aravinda who would be allowed to play the way he wants. Then Roshan, Hashan and myself, we used to control the innings in the middle. And then Kumara [Dharmasena] and [Chaminda] Vaas could bat. And I think generally, whatever the plans we had, we could implement them properly. More than anything, they were more committed to play for the country and win games. That is why a captain can be a lucky captain. You don’t have to have stars to win a tournament. You need good cricketers, who are committed to play for the country. I think that’s the luck I had as captain.
What does one of Sri Lanka's best ever captains have to say about match fixing?
I think even at that time we had some issues. But generally I always say if someone is cheating, he should be banned for life. That is my policy. And even if someone is getting into drugs, he should be banned. No excuses, because if you are giving an excuse then you are creating too many people who will get into that. And I am a great believer that if you are cheating your country, nothing good will happen to you.
How is Sri Lanka's shipping relationship with Bangladesh?
I am very keen, actually my brother is the chairman of the port authority. He met the Bangladesh authorities, and when the president tours Bangladesh, I might go, or I might go separately to try and get more ships, try to avoid ships going to Singapore, to try and get a berth here.