Ranjit Fernando: 14 interesting facts about the former Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman

Ranjit Fernando, born February 22, 1944, is a former Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman best known for his interesting commentating style and observations from behind the microphone. Although his batting accomplishments were not as dazzling as per the current standards for a keeper-batsman, his wicketkeeping was simply brilliant. Fernando featured in 38 First-Class matches scoring 1,349 runs at 22.11 with five half centuries. He took 50 catches and executed 15 stumpings as well. He represented Sri Lanka in only three official One-Day Internationals (ODIs), but served as their national selector for a period of approximately five years in the 1980s and in 2011. Later on, he took to commentary but gave it up eventually. Bhaskar Narayan scans through 14 interesting facts about the cricketer on his 72nd birthday.

1.  Born in British Ceylon: Fernando was born in Colombo in 1944, the then capital of British Ceylon. The British were the colonial masters of Sri Lanka at that time. The cricketer was just a few days away from his fourth birthday when the nation gained independence on February 4, 1948. However, the country continued to remain a British dominion until it gained full sovereignty in 1972.

2.  Role model: Fernando drew inspiration from Frank Worrell, former West Indies skipper and batting all-rounder, who was considered as a model leader. Worrell had been instrumental in bringing the already gifted Caribbean cricketers come together as a team of hungry raging wolves. Fernando admired Worrell’s foresight and his expert adroitness at leading the team.

3.  Cherishes Vijay Merchant’s autograph: One of Fernando’s elder cousins was fond of collecting autographs. He motivated the young Fernando to send letters to contemporary players. Upon his cousin’s advice, he wrote to Uday Merchant, Vijay’s brother. Uday dispatched him a photograph which had the signature of the celebrated Indian batsman.

4.  Schoolboy cricketer of the year: Fernando was naturally a very talented kid. He was probably the finest wicketkeeper-batsman in Sri Lanka in his teens. Fernando played eleven school cricket for his alma mater St. Bendict’s College, Colombo from 1960 and bagged Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1964.

5.  First overseas tour: After completing his schooling in 1964, Fernando was selected for Ceylon tour to India. Ceylon played a few unofficial Tests that time and even succeeded in winning the third, which was the country’s first big success on foreign soil. However, Fernando was not picked in the playing XI for any of these unofficial Tests.

6.  His first unofficial Test match: Fernando got his big break around five years later when he represented Ceylon in an unofficial Test in 1969. He continued to play unofficial Tests and limited-overs for approximately 10 years before calling it a day in 1979.

7.  Club cricket: Fernando played for Nondescripts Cricket Club in Colombo, one of the prominent clubs of the nation for roughly 16 years beginning 1963. He was the club’s captain and helped it win many laurels and tournaments.

8.  Coaching: Three years after his retirement from international cricket, Fernando qualified as an Advanced Coach in England for National Cricket Association (NCA). When Sri Lanka became a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Fernando took up coaching assignments. He is credited with restructuring the then flawed National Coaching Plan of the island nation.

9.  Team’s Assistant Manager: Besides coaching and giving his valuable inputs to reform the National Coaching Plan of Sri Lanka and making sure that it gained concrete shape, Fernando also served as the team’s Assistant Manager for its first official Test tour. He continued to serve in managerial positions for many years. Fernando was also an entrepreneur and used to shuffle between his cricketing duties and business.

10.  Member of Executive Committee of BCCSL: Fernando was a member of the Executive Committee of BCCSL, now known as Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). He usually served in its coaching committee. He toiled hard to improve Sri Lanka’s fielding and is credited for raising its standards to a level where it even succeeded in winning the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1996.

11.  Sunil Gavaskar motivated him to take to the mike: Fernando was persuaded for commentary by legendary Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar, who was also his close friend. Gavaskar excelled as a commentator but Fernando could not reach those heights.

12.  Executive Secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation: The foundation was established to adhere to all the requirements of cricket in Sri Lanka, after it had become a full-fledged member of the ICC. Fernando served as its Executive Secretary for a period of three years.

13.  Prestigious positions: Fernando was Sri Lanka’s national selector from 1983-88. After a period of around 23 years, he again became their chief selector in 2011. He also represented Sri Lanka in ICC Cricket Committee.

14.  Shares his birthday with Shaun Tait: Australia’s fast bowler Shaun Tait, his junior by 39 years was also born on February 22. First President of the United States of America George Washington, born 1799, shares the cricketer’s birthday.

(Bhaskar Narayan is a reporter at CricketCountry and Criclife. He passionately follows the game and is a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar. His Twitter handle is @Cricopathy)