‘Retired Hurt’ Mahanama on a mission to mend | Sunday Observer

‘Retired Hurt’ Mahanama on a mission to mend

Roshan Mahanama: Now a global Goodwill Ambassador
Roshan Mahanama: Now a global Goodwill Ambassador

Heads turned the moment Roshan Mahanama pushed open the glass door and walked into a crowded Sinhalese Sports Club hall. It was not his club, but the former World Cup champion batsman was at home and quick to recognize old faces.

Few of Mahanama’s multitude of fans had seen him in public after he quit cricket in 1999, chronicled a book ‘Retired Hurt’ and took up a job at the International Cricket Council (ICC) as a match referee putting to best use his clean-guy image that made him one of the most cultured cricketers to grace the playing field.

“Winning the World Cup was the pinnacle for me, but I am not sure whether it was the best thing that happened to Sri Lanka, or did it spawn greedy administrators”, said Mahanama at the launch of the Red Bull Campus Cricket World Finals in his capacity as Goodwill Ambassador for the event on Tuesday night.

On the sidelines he told the Sunday Observer that there was ‘all talk and no play” in the campaign to change the set-up at Sri Lanka Cricket, one of the highest money spinning companies in the country which is today run by a stop-gap non-cricket administrator and frowned on by the ICC.

“No doubt we’d like to get in there and give back to the sport, but how can you change something that does not want to change”, asked Mahanama.

In being away since he prematurely hung up his bat at the age of 33, Mahanama saw the game change and revolutionize and could be seeing himself as a principled voice of fair-play and decency on the field.

“There’s nothing better than doing something for your country and this tournament (Campus Cricket World Finals) supports players who might otherwise think there is no hope (of playing for the country).

“Even the ICC is now looking at supporting this Red Bull Campus Finals and players can combine their academic careers with cricket”, said Mahanama. Sri Lanka players Niroshan Dickwella, Amila Aponsu and Wanindu Hasaranga are representing the Campus team of the host country against sides from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the UAE and Zimbabwe with the tournament now into its seventh year.

With an unblemished track record Mahanama is easily a prized catch to pontificate on behalf of youngsters not willing to trade studies for cricket in an age when even sportsmanship can be compromised or forsaken for self gain.

Nearly two decades down the line Mahanama’s desire to reach out to the less privileged has taken him into several charity projects and like many of his team-mates he has no intention of turning his back on national cricket matters or leaving it in the hands of others who may fill vacuums left behind through bungled administrations.

“The game must at all times be played in the right spirit and if I may quote that famous saying: For when the one Great Scorer comes to write against your name, he writes not whether you won or lost but how you played the game”, Mahanama told his audience of young men and women.

It can be assumed that at least one man played the game in the eyes of the Great Scorer and continues to be the down-to-earth human being he was, whose presence in cricket made the sport a better game.

He may have retired hurt and got out of cricket, but cricket did not get out of him.