Home > Features > Moments in history >

Marvan Atapattu’s rise from depths of despair to end on a high is inspiring

Marvan Atapattu’s rise from depths of despair to end on a high is inspiring

Since his first Test century against India seven years after his debut, Marvan Atapattu became one of the most consistent batsmen produced by Sri Lanka © Getty Images

Marvan Atapattu, born November 22, 1970, was a peculiar cricketer who fought his way through an extended lean patch early on in his career to later go on to lead Sri Lanka in Tests and One-Day Internationals. Karthik Parimal looks back at the ups and downs in the career of this technically sound batsman, well known for his amazing cover-drive.

Just three days before his 27th birthday, Marvan Atapattu registered his first ever century in Tests, almost seven years after his debut, against the Indians at Mohali in the November of 1997. For a decade thereafter, he played 81 more Tests, collecting sixteen centuries and scripting famous victories for Sri Lanka all along. That Atapattu could finish his career with respectable statistics looked highly unlikely considering his initial days of struggle, but the way he fought back to become an asset for his side is praiseworthy.

Atapattu’s career got off to the worst possible start with five scores of zero in his first six innings. His first and only run during this phase came in his second Test, against the Australians. Even that single should have been called a leg-bye, but it was wrongly overlooked by the umpire. Steven Lynch, a cricket statistician of international repute, noted that Atapattu is the only specialist batsman to have owned four pairs in Tests. Two of those came in the course of his first three Tests, spread over a duration of five years.

The turnaround

Since his first Test century against India, Atapattu became one of the most consistent batsmen produced by Sri Lanka. In the next six years, before taking over the reins from Sanath Jayasuriya as skipper, he scored 3725 runs in 59 Tests at an average of 43.31, with eleven centuries under his belt. He left no stone unturned in One-Day Internationals (ODI) either, scoring 5583 runs in 167 games, inclusive of nine hundreds, at an average of 38.23. He developed a penchant for big innings, and this was evident from the fact that six of his 16 Test centuries were duly converted into double-hundreds, a feat next only to Sir Don Bradman, Wally Hammond and Brian Lara.

One of Atapattu’s best innings in Test cricket was played at Lord’s, where he opened alongside skipper Jayasuriya to score 185 against an English bowling line-up featuring Dominic Cork, Andrew Caddick, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff. The match ended in a tame draw, but it was evident that Atapattu would be a worthy successor to Jayasuriya. A year before that, the former scored a match-winning, unbeaten 201 against the same opposition at Galle, and was involved in a 335-run opening partnership with Jayasuriya against Pakistan at Kandy. He remained undefeated at 207 whereas his captain fell for 188.

Looking at his figures, there is little doubt that Atapattu fancied Zimbabwe as an opposition. He scored five big hundreds against them – 249, 223, 216 not out, 170 and 100 not out – of which three were scored in the opponent’s backyard. The 249 at Bulawayo remained his highest Test score.

He also features in the unique list of batsmen who’ve scored centuries against all Test-playing nations.

As a skipper

Atapattu was in brilliant touch as a leader. Firstly, the Sri Lankan side had been on a downward spiral under the tenure of Hashan Tillakaratne. Many expected the job to go to Atapattu once Jayasuriya stepped down, but the selectors chose Tillakaratne over the former. However, once they’d seen the repercussions of their decision —his ten-match tenure produced just one win — Atapattu was put at the helm. He not only reversed the side’s dwindling fortunes, but ensured famous victories over South Africa and Pakistan. Sri Lanka also won the 2004 Asia Cup under him.

His own batting form had started to improve. In 18 Tests as captain, Atapattu scored 1250 runs at 41.66.

Tiff with the selectors

Atapattu’s relationship with the Sri Lankan selectors was seldom cordial. He was controversially left out of the squad for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, and the battle of words between Atapattu and the selection committee commenced thereafter. He was also set to miss the 2007-08 series against Australia Down Under, but timely ministerial intervention ensured he boarded the flight. However, it wasn’t an easy task for the sports minister to convince the selectors. Atapattu in turn stated that he had no faith in the selection committee headed by Ashantha de Mel. “The squads are picked by the chief selector and his committee on a subjective basis with which I do not agree. I have no respect for them considering the distasteful manner in which they have treated me in the past eight months or so. This is the problem I have had with them since the issues arose from the 2007 World Cup,” said an agitated Atapattu back then.


In his final series against Australia, Atapattu scored an 80 during the second innings of the Hobart Test in a game that Australia eventually won by 96 runs. Prior to this Test, Atapattu lashed out at the Sri Lankan selectors, labelling them as ‘a set of muppets headed by a joker’, for having no proper plans pertaining to the future of Sri Lankan cricket and for running affairs in a topsy-turvy manner. He retired immediately after the Australian series.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 28, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Adelaide

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 28, 2014 (12:00 IST)   at Dhaka

Afghanistan tour of UAE, 2014

Nov 28, 2014 (15:30 IST)   at Dubai

More

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 124 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 25 runs

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014  at Colombo

Hong Kong won by 2 wkts

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 68 runs

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Sydney

Australia won by 2 wickets (D/L method)

Photos

Phil Hughes suffers head injury: In photos

Videos

Phil Hughes passes away: Video tribute

Phillip Hughes passes away: Let us bring Sean Abbott back on track

Phil Hughes and other cricketers who succumbed to on-field injuries

Phillip Hughes 7th-youngest Test cricketer to die

Phillip Hughes: A brief look at the career of one of Australia’s most promising talents

Phillip Hughes: Rest in peace

Australia England India India tour of Australia 2014-15 IPL 2013 spot-fixing controversy New Zealand New Zealand tour of UAE 2014 New Zealand vs Pakistan 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs New Zealand Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014 Phil Hughes Phil Hughes Death Phil Hughes head injury Phillip Hughes

Phil Hughes passes away: Former England cricketers feels for Sean Abbott

Phil Hughes passes away: Sourav Ganguly expresses grief

Bengal announce 14-member squad for Col CK Nayudu tournament

Phillip Hughes passes away: Sri Lanka Cricket expresses grief

Phil Hughes to be remembered during Australia-England Rugby International

Phil Hughes: Remembering his most memorable knocks

Phillip Hughes passes away: Kolkata is where Kolkata was

Phillip Hughes passes away: Crying for Phillip Hughes

Phillip Hughes passes away: Let us bring Sean Abbott back on track

Phil Hughes and other cricketers who succumbed to on-field injuries

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

682 Posts | 6 Fans

Video: Phil Hughes suffers head injury, collapses on field during New South Wales vs South Australia tie

Phil Hughes: Remembering his most memorable knocks

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

Ungli quick movie review: Emraan Hashmi and Randeep Hooda shine in the slick youthful entertainer

सुबह गुनगुना पानी पीने के छह फ़ायदे

Phillip Hughes passes away: Sri Lanka Cricket expresses grief

Bigg Boss 8: Find out what did Ali Quli Mirza say about Sonali Raut!

सर्दी के दिनों में त्वचा को स्वस्थ रखने के कुछ सरल उपाय

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here