The Forty Funniest Cricketers of All Time – Number Nine, Arjuna Ranatunga

at 2017.06.19
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9. Arjuna Ranatunga

Throughout this countdown, one of my favourite ongoing comedy archetypes has been that of the player who gets under the skin of the opposition. We’ve had a few of those now. Illustrious names such as Sourav Ganguly, Javed Miandad and Brad Haddin to name just three.

But we’re now at the daddy of them all – the most annoying (and, hence, funniest) captain in the history of the game.

Arjuna Ranatunga.

These days, most fans consider Sri Lanka merely another international cricket team. Sometimes they’re a strong cricketing nation. Other times less so. But there’s nothing inherently more remarkable about them than, say, Pakistan, or South Africa, or New Zealand.

It was not always so. In the 1980s, they were a meek side. Newcomers to the international arena, they were often grateful just for the honour of sharing the field with their heroes.

In return, they were treated with condescension. Did one of their bowlers take a few wickets? Oh, how adorable. Did they almost draw level with one of the bigger nations on the first innings of a Test? Nice effort, guys – see, hard work does pay off. One of them made a century? Huh. Good for you. What a big strong boy you are.

Shane Warne’s first great moment in Test cricket was saving Australia from the utter, unimaginable humiliation of losing a Test to Sri Lanka. Tony Greig called them plucky little Sri Lankans until the day he died. And England deigned to play against them in as many as three Tests during the 1990s.

And then came Ranatunga.

Ranatunga was having none of this condescending bullshit. These fuckers weren’t his heroes – they were his opponents. And he was going to treat them like it.

Ranatunga was a fine batsman. A strong-willed captain. And a very occasional bowler.

But, as mentioned above, Ranatunga’s greatest cricketing strength was none of these things. It was instead his superhuman prowess in the field of driving the opposition mental.

And he saved most of it for Australia, bless him.

Here he is, edging to Ian Healy and not walking. It’s difficult to imagine pre-Ranatunga Sri Lankans not walking. Especially not against Australia.

But Ranatunga wasn’t annoying just because he didn’t walk.

He was also annoying because he did walk. Every time there was a single to the outfield on offer, Ranatunga would walk as much of that single as possible. This was anathema to the Australians, who believed in running every run as hard as one could. Indeed, Dean Jones was for many years considered Australia’s finest ODI batsman almost solely because of how very hard he would run between the wickets.

But Ranatunga didn’t stop there. Not walking is irritating. Not running is more irritating. But most irritating of all? Taking that irritating immobility and using it to exploit and, ultimately, destroy one of the game’s oldest and funniest conventions.

You see, kids, in the good old days, cricket had the concept of runners and everything was good and funny. If an injured batsman couldn’t run between the wickets for some reason then they could summon somebody else in their team to do the job for them. Or, as was far more often the case, completely mess up the job for them until somebody was comically run out.

Needless to say, Ranatunga glorious exploited this loophole like nobody’s business, summoning minions to run for him pretty much whenever he felt like it. It became so prevalent that eventually Ian Healy infamously advised him ‘you don’t get a runner for being an overweight, fat cunt’.

Quality tip, Heals.

But let’s get real here. If Ian Healy feels you’re pushing the boundaries of the game a little too far then you definitely have something going for you.

Eventually, Ranatunga’s antics with runners resulted in them being removed from the game. Sure, it took the ICC a decade after Ranatunga retired to get around to it. But we all know Arjuna was the catalyst. And, realistically, a decade is pretty swift retribution in ICC time. Ordinarily, I’d deduct points from Ranatunga here for being such a negative comedic force. But I can’t fault him for the way he went about it.

There are other moments, too, of course. He got Alec Stewart to call him a disgrace in Adelaide one night, a goal that many of us have aspired to.

He annoyingly won a World Cup.

And every now and then he’d take his team off the field to make a point to Ross Emerson.

All glorious stuff, from an irritating, irritating man, who, in his spare time, transformed Sri Lankan cricket.

Congratulations, Arjuna Ranatunga. You are the ninth funniest cricketer of all time.

Ranatunga will bat at five (with a runner) and will obviously captain our Funniest Cricketers First XI.

Here’s the Master List of the Forty Funniest Cricketers of All Time.

The Forty Funniest Cricketers of All Time – Number Ten, Phil Tufnell
The Forty Funniest Cricketers of All Time – Number Eight, Shahid Afridi

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