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Ex-SL pacer Pushpakumara looks back at career with content

Last updated on: March 8, 2011 10:30 IST

'Ex-cricketers now more involved with helping the Cricket Board'

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Bikash Mohapatra in Colombo

Once he was one of the fastest bowlers in the world.

Now it is a little difficult to recognize him.

The slight frame has been replaced by a rotund physique.

Tell him he has put on weight and he is quick to admit he has "not been exercising."

Ravindra Pushpakumara's smile and his humility are in tact though.

And he is very focused on his new role -- as the ICC Photography Manager -- even though he self-admittedly has "no clue about photography."

What he is satisfied with though is the fact that the Sri Lankan cricket board is taking an initiative to involve former cricketers in its affairs.

 "In the past ex-cricketers were alienated when big events came to Sri Lanka. But now our chairman (DS De Silva) has requested all cricketers and coaches to come and help out the board," he says.


Image: Ravindra Pushpakumara
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra
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'Bad knees responsible for early retirement'

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Pushpakumara is also involved with the game in another capacity.

 "I'm in charge of promoting cricket and spotting talent in the North and East," he explains, adding, "Now that the war -- they didn't have any facilities then -- in Jaffna is over we are getting some cricketers.

"There is plenty of talent at the U-15 and U-17 levels. We are identifying them in batches of 30, bringing them to Colombo and making them play in the clubs here.

"Some of the bowlers from Jaffna were bowling in the P Sara Oval nets to the Aussies and they were impressed."

The discussion veers towards his career and what was a premature retirement. Did he ever make an announcement?

"I retired in 2004. I hadn't announced it, but I stopped playing then," explains Pushpakumara, blaming "bad knees" for the early end to his international career.


Image: Sri Lankan bowler Ravindra Pushpakumara bowls to Zimbabwe's Alistair Campbell in a Test match in 1999
Photographs: Reuters
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'I could have played most Test cricket'

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The 35-year-old goes on to elaborate that though his career was short, he had no regrets.

"Not really. I achieved a lot," he says, before doing a quick recap of what was one a promising career.

"In 1992, I finished training at the MRF Pace Foundation," says Pushpakumara, adding, "I was part of a Sri Lankan team that won the first Test overseas in 1994 (in Dunedin).

"Then we reached the finals of the Tri-series in Australia in 95-96 and we also won the World Cup." There is a momentary pause before he reiterates, "I don't regret anything."

"If anything at all, I could have played most Test cricket," he adds, as an afterthought.

His brief 23-Test career had a few memorable moments.

And Pushpakumara is quick to recall them.

"I picked up five wickets in West Indies (Arnos Vale in 1997)," he reminds me, adding, "And I bowled a great delivery to Sachin Tendulkar in Mumbai in 1997.

"He was batting on a hundred plus and after the match he told me, "Pushpa, it's a great ball and no one has bowled me like that ever."


Image: Ravindra Pushpakumara
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra
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'Waqar has been magnificent for Pakistan'

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And what about the comparisons that were drawn with former Pakistani fast bowler and incumbent coach Waqar Younis?

Pushpakumara admits it have been a subconscious effort.

"I trained in MRF in 1992. But after I played against Pakistan in Kandy, I always made it a point to speak with Waqar and ask him can you teach me some of your tricks," he explains, adding, "He was always very helpful.

"He always advised me on my run up and he always stressed about fitness."

Now that Waqar is in the Emerald Isle, did he ask him to tutor his boys from Jaffna.

"No, he is busy with Pakistan and he is doing a fine job," admits Pushpakumara, adding, "The way he manages the boys and the way he simulates match conditions is superb.

"We always have notions that top teams like Australia produce great coaches, but Waqar has been magnificent for Pakistan."

The 35-year-old does have plans to emulate his idol and take up coaching a few years on. As of now though, he is more than content with his twin responsibilities.


Image: Ravindra Pushpakumara (right) of Sri Lanka appeals against Indian batsman Javagal Srinath in a Test match in 1997
Photographs: Reuters
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