Atapattu - Passport to Goodbye?

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Marvan Atapattu is arguably the most docile of captains that the cricket world will ever see. With his gentle demeanour he captained the Sri Lankan team to eight Test wins, and thirty-five one-day triumphs, without really letting his batting suffer. But where is Marvan Atapattu today?

With a Test batting average of 38.9 - and a one-day average of 37.57, Atapattu can be proud of his performance as a batsman. Not only has he amassed 27 hundreds and 74 fifties he will be always remembered for the massive double hundreds he has to his credit. Imagine the kind of focus that is required to stay at the crease and produce such magical feats. He may be a demure and reserved person on the surface, but inside he is as solid as steel.

Atapattu played his last Test match in December of 2005, and then faced chronic back problems and was rested for the Bangladesh tour in March of 2006. Mahela Jayawardene was appointed the stand-in captain. After recuperating, and when he was able enough to play, he opted out of the Test tour against the visiting South Africans. He would have played in the tri-series to follow but if you remember, that event was cancelled as South Africa pulled out citing security reasons.

In retrospect perhaps this was the beginning of his passport to goodbye! In the cricket series just prior to the World Cup, when Sri Lanka visited India, Marvan again opted out of the Tests and played only in the one-dayers. Could the message be any clearer to the management that he wanted to train hard for the world cup and was therefore only concentrating on the shorter format? I guess not, because the irony is, as we all know now, that he did not play a single game in the 2007 edition of the tournament.

The Sri Lankan Cricket administration, played games with the ex-captain of the side, and it must have killed him within to realize the snub, right through the World Cup. Prior to the tournament, Atapattu had a string of scores below the 50 mark. Could that be one reason why he was not considered in the playing eleven? But in a prestigious tournament like the world cup, doesnt experience count for anything? In the 268 matches that he has played, he has 8529 runs under his belt and his highest score is 132 not out against England in 1998.

A decent batting average of 37.57 with 11 centuries and no less than 59 half centuries. Perhaps the management could have looked at these stats and given the ex-captain a chance in the world cup specially when some of the younger players were struggling. But that was not to be, and Marvan Atapattu had to sit out and watch as his team ended runners up in the bizarre World Cup final that took place in Barbados, ending a rather forgettable World Cup, not only for himself but for cricket lovers at large!

At the recently concluded three match one-day series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, he was still not considered as part of the squad. Now, its time for the Sri Lankans to host the Bangladeshis and an embittered Atapattu has once again opted out of the three Test series mentioning personal commitments as being the reason for his withdrawal.

It remains to be seen whether the ex-captain of the side will be allowed to play, or whether he would want to play in the one-dayers against the visiting Bangladeshis. The Lankan Cricket Board (SLC) are certainly not a happy lot with Atapattus last minute pull out and as I write they are planning to take action against the player.

Does Atapattu really care anymore? Has this entire shoddy treatment of his talent, made him a cynical man now? The one ray of light in an otherwise tunnel of darkness these past few months for Marvan has been the selection into the Lashings World XI, the Kent-based 'Harlem Globetrotters' of cricket. He will have Russel Arnold and Sanath Jayasuriya as teammates of this International Cricket Club.

By playing for Lashings, he may have broken an annual contract that he has with the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, but the fact remains that he is now doing what he wants to do, and that is to play cricket in the shorter format of the game. To be on the turf that he considers home. To score runs with his willow and add to his self-confidence.

And the price he may have to pay, for wanting to play a certain version of the game, may prove to be more expensive than he could have ever imagined. But thats life. You dont always get to do what you want to, right?.

One hopes that this will not be Marvan Atapattus passport to - Goodbye!! Only time will tell!


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