Time marches relentlessly forward as should we, but at the same time we should never lose touch with the past; there are too many lessons and memories therein and it’s influence on the future is too significant.
How this is relevant to the saga of former captain and batting legend Marvan Atapattu and his sad demise as a result of selectorial blundering would, in the long wake of his loss to Sri Lanka cricket, make for a hollow debate and allows a negative trait of human nature to reign; to focus on the darker times of day.
Indeed, Marvan Atapattu was a distinguished stylist and rock solid opener who would bat with class and consistency at 1, 3 or 5. He was our rock of Gibraltar with a ramrod straight upper elbow on the cover drive and Fred Astaire footwork against spin. A leader of substance and fine orator, his contribution to our dominant and gilt edged place in world cricket stands shoulder to shoulder with Sanath, Murali and Aravinda, which is why we should never hesitate to remember and show our appreciation.
I first saw Marvan Atapattu play in 1998 on tour to England. He scored that brilliant 132* against England in the Natwest final at Lords. I enjoyed all six of his double hundreds, and I probably rate the 201* v England at Galle in that innings win as the most valuable, the 259 v Zimbabwe as the most fluent.
His 184 against England at Lords was poetry in motion, 133 against Australia at Cairns a lesson in determination and application. With Mahela Jayawardene he nearly broke the record for the highest 3rd wicket partnership in the Sharjah Cup match win against India, scoring a century before the pair were dismissed 4 runs short.
In the summer of 2001 I went to see Sri Lanka v New Zealand at the SSC and I vividly remember Atapattu’s lofted drive for a six on to the roof!
Atapattu was a straight talking, effusive, emphatic and well spoken orator and his retort in the VB series, "before the series even began everyone said this would be a two horse race. Now the 3rd horse has beaten the first horse in the first final," will stay with me for a long time.
It is a shame his prophecy, "with Tom Moody as coach, we can topple Australia as the number one side," did not come true with him in the side, or Moody at the helm.
Indeed, when Atapattu spoke, you listened and Jayawardene was quick to praise him as a "brilliant leader" and credit him for the toughness and responsibility and style that emerged on the seminal 2005 tour of England.
Dignified, elegant and upright in style Atapattu was as gd as any opener of his epoch, be that Atherton, Kirsten, Langer, Jayasuriya and despite his obdurate defensive technique he was a fluent ODI batsmen and a delight to watch, dashing against spin and once averaging 52 in a year as the worlds 2nd most successful ODI player.
The inexplicable decision to give Hashan Tillakaratne the test captaincy, sciatica and board politics curtailed a glittering career of a tremendous, arguably great player and I salute him for lambasting de Mel and his selectors, alongside his magnificent contribution to cricket in the paradise isle, being as fine a player as Sathasivam, de Silva, Jayasuriya, Jayawardene et al.
Looking back at Atapattu’s career in pictures I felt sad that he will never again take the field for Sri Lanka. He captained wins over India in the Asia Cup 2004 and Indian Oil Cup 2005. But nothing in life is permanent and legends come and go. I am grateful to have witnessed and for my country to have been blessed with the talent of Marvan Atapattu, who incidentally has the same star sign as Brett Lee and my dad!