After 124 years of Test cricket, Marvan Atapattu (right) became the first man to retire out. Mahela Jayawardene (left) became the second © Getty Images
After 124 years of Test cricket, Marvan Atapattu (right) became the first man to retire out. Mahela Jayawardene (left) became the second © Getty Images

Marvan Atapattu walked off after scoring 201 to allow teammates to feast on a seriously inept Bangladesh bowling attack, followed by Mahela Jayawardene. Arunabha Sengupta recalls September 7, 2001, that saw the dismissal ‘retired out’ for the first two times in Test cricket.

With the elevation of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to the Test level, one witnessed some macabre developments around the cricket world.

Seasoned batting stalwarts like Colin Cowdrey, Ian Chappell, Dilip Vengsarkar, Desmond Haynes, Mohammad Azharuddin and several others had never managed double-hundreds in their illustrious careers — but suddenly Wasim Akram piled up 257, Jason Gillespie 201.

Records began to be traced along two planes. For detailed analysis, the nagging caveat was added – “however, not counting the minnows…” Overseas victories needed to be qualified. Melbourne and Chittagong could not be given the same weight, nor Durban and Harare. Many figures got bloated and sparkled, while peeling off the sheen generated against the minnows saw them collapse into mediocrity.

Another first introduced by the toothless bowling — primarily of Bangladesh — was a new type of dismissal. On September 7, 2001, Marvan Atapattu became the first man to be retired out.

It took place during the second Asian Test Championship — down to three nations with India having opted out. It was a foregone conclusion that Sri Lanka and Pakistan would steamroll Bangladesh before locking horns against each other in the decider.

At Multan, Pakistan had put it across the hapless Bangladeshis by an innings and 264 runs. Saeed Anwar, Taufeeq Umar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf (then known as Yousuf Youhana) and Abdul Razzaq had all hit hundreds. Anwar and Taufeeq had thrown away their wickets immediately after reaching three figures and Inzamam had retired hurt.

The eleventh mode of dismissal

Now, at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Sanath Jayasuriya put the visitors in and the Lankan attack bundled them out for 90 in 36.4 overs. Muttiah Muralitharan finished with figures of 9.4-4-13-5. In reply, Sri Lanka ended the first day at 246 for 1, with Atapattu having progressed to 99.

The next day, the ridiculously unequal struggle continued. After Kumar Sangakkara had fallen for 54, Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene tortured the Bangladeshi bowlers, taking the score to 436 for 2 by lunch.

Atapattu resumed after the break on 197, and struck the third delivery from Hasibul Hossain for a boundary to reach 201 off 256 balls. It was his fifth double-hundred in Test cricket.

Three deliveries later, at the end of the over, he was called in by his captain. After 124 years of Test cricket, “retired out” was registered against a name for the first time as Michael Vandort walked out to enjoy his share of the run-feast.

Atapattu’s unusual feat did not remain unique for long. Soon after Jayawardene had posted his 150, he too went back to the pavilion.

Sri Lanka declared a visually appealing total of 555 for 5, scored at a farcical 5.36 an over. And although Bangladesh displayed more application the second time around, they lost by an innings and 137 runs — Murali getting his customary 10 for the match, but not before Mohammad Ashraful became the youngest to score a hundred on Test debut.

Atapattu was quite candid when speaking about the curious end to his innings, “Unfortunately most of us didn’t realise that (the opportunity of getting a triple-hundred). I was asked to retire … there was the chance to get a 300, but didn’t realise how important it can be after a couple of years. When Bangladesh improve it wouldn’t look as bad as it looks now. We never thought about it and I definitely missed a chance there.”

And when asked whether he regretted it, he did not mince his words: “Yes. Now when I think about it, I regret. The team management came out with that idea to retire. They gave me the chance to make the 200 and then they said you better retire and give the others a chance and we’ll finish this game off. But that’s how it goes and people learn by their mistakes.”

Very human reaction, indeed. However, one cannot help wondering about the repercussions if a certain Sachin Tendulkar had voiced similar sentiments after such a knock against Bangladesh.

Brief scores:

Bangladesh 90 (Chaminda Vaas 3 for 47, Muttiah Muralitharan 5 for 13) and 328 (Javed Omar 40, Aminul Islam 56, Mohammad Ashraful 114, Naimur Rahman 48; Muttiah Muralitharan 5 for 98, Ruchira Perera 3 for 40) lost to Sri Lanka 555 for 5 decl. (Marvan Atapattu 201, Sanath Jayasuriya 89, Kumar Sangakkara 54, Mahela Jayawardene 150) by an innings and 137 runs.

Men of the Match: Mohammad Ashraful, Muttiah Muralitharan.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)