Russel Arnold    Getty Images
Russel Arnold Getty Images

Born October 25, 1973, Russel Premakumaran Arnold is a former Sri Lankan batsman, who played for the island country between 1997 and 2007. A complete cricketer, Rusty as he s fondly known in Sri Lanka s cricket circles could bat, bowl and had a safe pair of hands on the field. He started his career as an opener but rise of Marvan Attapattu forced him to become a middle-order batsman. On his 44th birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 17 facts from the life of the tall batsman, who has found his calling in commentating post his cricket career.

1. Religious: Arnold is a Methodist Christian of Tamil descent, just like Muttiah Muralitharan. He is a religious person and has a strong belief in Jesus Christ.

2. Family: Arnold was raised along with his three siblings; Dharshini, Michael and Selwyn who are all older than him. He is married to Sonali and has two kids Akash and Saniya.

3. Rusty: Arnold has been nicknamed “Rusty” by his former team-mates Roshan Mahanama and Pramodya Wickramasinghe, as it complements his batting style which is quite tough and durable, but not pleasing to the eyes.

4. Early years: Arnold was influenced by his grandfather, who encouraged him to take cricket as a career. He first burst onto the domestic scene in 1993 as a 20-year old. He played as an opening batsman at St. Peters College, Colombo and made his mark in Under 19 international cricket on a tour of England in 1992 in this role. He scored 242 runs at an average of 48.40 in three Tests in England.

But a place in the Sri Lanka team was out of question, as the team had a formidable batting line-up. After four productive seasons in the domestic circuit, he found himself in the reserves squad for the home series against Pakistan at home in 1997.

5. Test debut: Arnold s Test debut was a chance encounter as Roshan Mahanama, the original opening partner of Sanath Jayasuriya, was injured by a yorker bowled to him in the nets. The sudden opportunity allowed him to open the batting in the first Test at Colombo, where he scored 24 and 15 in the match.

6. ODI debut: Arnold opened the innings in his One-Day International (ODI) debut seven months after his Test debut. He scored 11 off 21 balls as the island nation went down by 66 runs against the South African team.

7. Change in position: It wasn t easy to make it to the Sri Lankan batting order of the 90s. Arnold, who started off as an opener, faced stiff competition first from Marvan Atapattu, whose rise coincided with his entry to the national team, and then from the fading Romesh Kaluwitharana and the rising Avishka Gunawardene. In 1999, the then Sri Lankan coach Dav Whatmore felt Arnold could be utilised in a better way while playing down the order. In the Coca-Cola Champions Trophy final at Sharjah in 1999, he first played at No. 6 in Sri Lanka s losing cause. His effort of 44-ball 27 not out was enough to confirm his position in the lower middle-order thereafter.

8. Finisher s role: It is in this finisher s role that Arnold played an important part in Sri Lanka s ODI success in the 2000s, especially against India in 2005, in Australia in early 2006, and then during the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007. He revelled in the role and played some outstanding knocks lower down the order for his country. His memorable ODI knocks lower down the order include his 91 not out against New Zealand at Hamilton in 2001, 76 not out against Zimbabwe the same year, 57 against Pakistan in 2002, 51 not out against Zimbabwe in 2004, 49 not out against India at Ahmedabad in 2005 and 66 not out against the same side at Margao in 2007.

9. Memorable Test knocks: Arnold s 123 and 56 not out against Pakistan in March 1999 at Lahore stand right up there when it comes to his best performances. His stupendous effort helped his side secure a draw against the strong Pakistani side in their own backyard. His 62 and 109 against England at Manchester in June 2002 didn t avoid a Sri Lanka defeat, but spoke volumes about the talent he possessed.

10. Clash with Ganguly: During the final of the Champions Trophy in 2002, Arnold had a brief altercation with the then Indian captain Sourav Ganguly. While attempting a quick single against Anil Kumble, Arnold stepped on to the protected playing area. Wicketkeeper Rahul Dravid, who was quick to point that out, was soon joined by Ganguly. The argument became heated in no time and few words got exchanged before the umpires stepped in and separated the two.

11. Retirement: Arnold played last Test of his career against Australia in July 2004 and wasn t considered for Test selection after that. He announced his ODI retirement after the 2007 World Cup, where Sri Lanka finished as the runners up.

12. Statistics: In the 44 Tests he played, Arnold scored 1,821 runs at an average of just above 28. He also scored 3,950 runs in the 180 ODIs that he featured in. His average of 35.26 puts him sixth on the list of highest ODI averages for Sri Lanka behind Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Attapattu and Arjuna Ranatunga. A handy off-spinner, he also has 11 and 40 wickets in Tests and ODIs to his name.

VIDEO: When Pollock, Arnold, Ganga, Knight and umpire Dar recreated the India-Bangladesh last ball scene
VIDEO: When Pollock, Arnold, Ganga, Knight and umpire Dar recreated the India-Bangladesh last ball scene

13. Indian Cricket League: After retiring from international cricket, Arnold joined the Indian Cricket League (ICL) and played for Chennai Superstars and ICL World XI.

14. Commentator: Arnold is now a popular television commentator and cricket expert. He also writes a weekly Q+A column on Island Cricket.

15. iPhone app: Arnold also keeps his fans entertained using his iPhone app ‘Ask Rusty’, that was launched in the year 2012 during the ICC World T20. The iPhone app allows his fans to ask questions to him directly. In addition, it consists of feeds of Arnold’s match predictions as well.

16. Wasim Akram fan: Arnold rates Pakistani legend Wasim Akram as the best bowler he ever faced during his career. The two share some interesting duels on the field; one of the famous duels came during the ODI at Sharjah in October 1999. In that game, which was a tie, Arnold had an all-round role to play. He picked up two wickets that of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Arshad Khan and then came out and scored 61 off 97 deliveries. Akram was unplayable in that match with his figures of 3 for 38.

17. Trivia: Arnold is the holder of first Twenty20 International (T20I) cap for Sri Lanka. He got the honour when Sri Lanka played its first ever T20I against England in June 2006 at Southampton. His team won the close match by two runs.