Ranil Abeynaike’s Passing A Tragic Loss To Sri Lanka Cricket
Posted on February 24th, 2012

Top Spin By Suni

February 24th 2012

It would hardly be fair to let the memory of Ranil Abeynaike fade away without a few words of appreciation.

A cricketer who hailed from that wonderful mould of Thomian cricketers from Mount Lavinia and fashioned into the gentlemen’s game from what was then and still is one of Sri Lanka’s finest educational institututions which has stood for centuries and produced some of the finest who ever played the game both at school, club and international levels. Ranil was someone who wielded the willow as well as sling the leather equitably albeit better known as a slow left armer inasmuch as his famous dad Orville was during his day and has left behind indelible memories of the grace and agility with which he played the game perhaps unfortunately for him in that it was a time when Sri Lanka had not gained Test Status or else he would surely have been a choice for participation as by every norm he was indeed a gentleman cricketer extraordinaire with the flair that made great cricketers it is presumed at the highest level.

Off the field he was known to be a very pleasing personality with a great sense of humour and developed into one of the finest commentators of the modern game who articulated a very descriptive, accurate and sometimes veiled in humour type of commentary which was a pleasure to his viewing audiences reminiscent of the old greats like Arlott, Johnson, Alston, Mc Gillwray, Trueman, Laker, Benaud etc. as well as the younger generation of Greig, Chappel, Shastri, Gower, Husein, LLoyd, Sir Ian, Healey, Holding etc. to name some alongside whom he was often seen at his best with that soft delivery of voice and a gleam in his eye ever knowledgeable and accurate in his description of the game unfolding conveyed from the venue into the living room with aplomb and masterful observations.

 Ranil burst on the scene of commentating at a time when many believed Sri Lanka’ commentating quality was slipping and needed rejuvenation which was indeed the case after the glory days of Maurice and Anton, Perera, R.B Wijeysinghe, Bob Harvie, Sathi Coomaraswamy etc. as Ranil infused into Sri Lanka cricket commentating what seemed to be the panacea for a veritable listing and the danger of sinking, with his bubbly personality, his impeccable English and clever dialogue which did what was needed to right the discipline and until his passing was an icon and a shining beacon that illuminated and embellished his undertaking as a commentator and perhaps even inspired a few of his contemporaries like Russ Arnold and Roshan Abeysinghe holding their own and hopefully carry on Ranil’s good work as a brilliant commentator in their own realm.

 In addition to his commentating and other cricketing attributes he was also a reputed curator of cricket pitches where he had been trained by the best in the fine art of pitch preparation and maintenance where often before a big game he was seen inspecting the pitch and throwing in valuable comments on the nature of the pitch and how it would probably play, which was a kind of hallmark of his with the knowlege and authority he shared with the best in the trade of curating and makes his loss an irreplacable as well as saddening one of someone who gave so much to the game he loved.

 When Ranil began his cricketing career at St Thomas’ Mount Lavinia in the early 70s I was already domiciled in Canada although avidly following Sri Lanka cricket at both the inter school, club as well as international level as the years unfolded and Sri Lanka gained Test Status and basked in the glory of some spectacular wins as well as heartbreaking losses in both formats of the game until the victorious World Cup of 1998 which was the zenith of Sri Lanka’s achievement where Ranil’s jubilations must surely have been equally joyful despite not being an active participant. His joys must surely have been augmented by his tremendous school career as captain of the under 14, under 16 as well as 1st X1 an of course the Royal Thomian which surely is any schoolboy cricketer’s dream where he did leave an indelible imprint.

 He died young as all the good ones do , may his soul rest in peace and may his family and loved ones be comforted during this time of sadness for all who knew him and truly appreciated his contributions to the game as well as how he lived his life as a role model to all future generations.

 “Once there were hallowed turfs

where youngsters were nurtured

in the gentlemen’s game

and some rose to greatness

For all they had learned.

They will be remembered

as the giants of their day

as memories unfold

and incessantly retold.”




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