Friendships nowadays between international cricketers is a common sight after the dawn of franchise cricket in the name of IPL, CPL, BBL and what not. But this is about a relationship that was so strained back in the day, that it lives on to date.
Arjuna Ranatunga and Shane Warne are two widely renowned cricketers who accomplished a lot when they graced the cricket field. Both World Cup winners, the pair had quite a relationship during their heyday.
Free hit contributor – Kasun Ekneligoda
1995-96 Australian tour
It was a hot day in Sydney and Ranatunga was facing the Aussie attack. He started getting cramped and requested for a runner. And what followed from the Aussies was filth targeted at Ranatunga. “You don’t get a runner for being an overweight, unfit, fat, c**t” was the reply from Ian Healy behind the stumps and the whole world listened to it through the stump mic. The tour went on and the Murali’s no ball fiasco damaged Ranatunga and Sri Lanka even more.
1996 Wills World Cup
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka cohosted this World Cup. Sri Lanka was scheduled to play Australia at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo and the whole nation was waiting for a glimpse of that game. But their dreams were shattered as Australia refused to come to Sri Lanka for security concerns. The whole nation of Sri Lanka was deflated. But captain Arjuna Ranatunga felt more than deflation, he was hurt, he wanted to give them the courtesy back. He went into a press conference and said that the Aussies were just plain scared to play Sri Lanka and it is something to expect from an ordinary team like them. (Mind you, the Aussies were the number one side at that moment). He also went on to say that Shane Warne is an overrated bowler, saying that Sri Lanka would love to meet the Aussies in the Final. It seemed like an average jab to the ears of the cricketing arena, but not to the Aussies. They were frustrated and Shane Warne was badly hurt. They wanted revenge. The days went by and as destiny wanted to see more, Sri Lanka and Australia made it to the final battle. The stage was set. Australia were put in to bat by Ranatunga and they scratched their way to a decent total of 241-7. For many opponents at that time, with the Aussie bowling line up, that would have been curtains. But not for the Sri Lankans, who had mastered the art of taming bowling line ups and chasing scores down. When Ranatunga came to bat, Sri Lanka had lost 3 wickets and Aravinda de Silva was well set. From the moment Ranatunga made strides to the ground, he was being barraged with abuse by the Aussies. Ranatunga later mentioned it even got personal and he had to calm down Aravinda many times. But Ranatunga kept his cool. His moment arrived when he almost hit Shane Warne, smashing one straight through his hands and down to the boundary for four. He then tossed the next one over square leg for six. Ranatunga ended the chase with a 37 ball 47 and lifted the World Cup for the first time as a chasing captain.
Ross Emerson called Murali again for throwing in the tri series between Sri Lanka, Australia and England and Ranatunga took charge of his team and walked out as a protest to the decision. This caused chaos in the cricketing arena with heated debates on the rights and the wrongs of Ranatunga’s actions. But Ranatunga had to face firing consequences of his decision. In 1999 nearing the World Cup in England, Warne wrote to a column in a newspaper.
“There is plenty of animosity between Arjuna and myself. I don’t like him, and I’m not in a club of one.” Though Sri Lanka and Australia didn’t meet in that world cup, the defending champions were knocked out in the first round and the Aussies went on to win their 2nd world title.
2003 World Cup scandal and 2004 tour of Sri Lanka
Arjuna Ranatunga had retired from Cricket in 2000 and had already won a parliamentary seat from general elections in 2001 when the 2003 World Cup took place. But the whole world was shocked to hear that the veteran Australian leg spinner had tested positive for an illegal substance, preventing him from taking part in the tournament. He later stated that his mother had given him a fluid tablet to improve his appearance and to get rid of his double chin. Warne was banned from every form of cricket for one year.
Arjuna stated that Warne should be banned for life and he is no role model to any youngster watching.
It was in 2004 that the Aussies came back to Sri Lanka and in a press conference the leggie stated,
“Arjuna, he’s probably slotting himself around at 150 kilos at the moment, is he? Swallowed a sheep or something like that.”
Arjuna who is never one to hold back said, “If I swallow a lamb or a goat, it is none of his business. But I must tell him that I don’t swallow those pills and blame my mother for it,”
He continued, “I am fine and fit at 95 kilograms. It is better to swallow a sheep or a goat than swallow what he has been swallowing. I am certainly going to meet him. I may even invite him to attend one of my campaign meetings, though I know I may risk losing some votes.”
Shane Warne’s Century: My Top 100 Test Cricketers
In Shane Warne’s book of his 100 top test cricketers, with courage he named Ranatunga as his 93rd. He wrote,
“Through gritted teeth, I have put Arjuna Ranatunga in my 100, because everybody knows I don’t like Ranatunga… if there was any way I could knock him down to number 101 for the purposes of this book, I’d be delighted to do so. The basic problem I had with Ranatunga was his attitude towards the game. He didn’t play cricket in the right spirit and tried to manipulate the laws and regulations without actually breaking them. I can remember occasions when he led his team off the field because he was unhappy with an umpiring decision, ordered an umpire where to stand behind the wicket, called for a runner by faking injury to disguise his own fitness – he looked as though he’d swallowed a sheep – and told his teammates not to shake our hands after a match. He was described as a little Napoleon early in his captaincy career and I think he took it as praise, he was so irritating. I have not heard a good word for him from a single international player outside Sri Lanka.”
Even Ranatunga later conceded that he had moved on and respected Shane Warne as a cricketer, but the ashes between them are still fuming and have not taken a break. You will see Virat Kohlis, Steven Smiths, Mahela Jayawardenas, and many more showing aggression and wanting to dominate on the pitch. But I doubt if we will ever see another cold war under the skin as animated as “Ranatunga-Warne” in the cricketing chronicles.
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