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Jayananda Warnaweera, once Galle cricket stadium’s caretaker, living in oblivion

Jayananda Warnaweera, long-serving caretaker of the Galle International Stadium, is conspicuous by his absence in the inaugural Test as he is serving a three-year ban imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC)

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Jul 27, 2017 18:58 IST
India vs Sri Lanka,IND v SL,India vs Sri Lanka 2017
Jayananda Warnaweera is serving a three-year ban imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC).(AFP/Getty Images - file photo)

On earlier tours of the India cricket team to Sri Lanka, Jayananda Warnaweera used to be the most familiar face at the Galle International Stadium. The venue got international status in 1998 and the former Lanka bowler became its caretaker. He commanded huge respect and everyone had high opinion of him. (IND v SL, Galle Test SCORECARD)

However, Warnaweera is conspicuous by his absence in the inaugural Test as he is serving a three-year ban imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC). Though the ICC didn’t mention the details of the case, and Warnaweera was handed the suspension for failing to cooperate with the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) investigation. He had already been handed a two year suspension by Sri Lanka Cricket on the same charges.

The Galle stalwart shifted to Kandy. He refuses to comment on his ban, saying that with only a year of the ban period remaining, he doesn’t want to get into any further controversy. Warnaweera, however, admits that it was the toughest period of his life.

READ | Shikhar Dhawan emulates Don Bradman, Virender Sehwag vs Sri Lanka in Galle Test

“It was not easy, destiny does all these things. I don’t want to comment on the decision,” Warnaweera told HT.

Before the ban, Warnaweera was a respected figure in Sri Lanka cricket. He was the chief curator at Galle, preparing wickets on which Sri Lanka were practically unbeatable. Galle came to be known as the bastion of the home team, and India lost three of the four Tests they played here.

But Warnaweera’s heart is with cricket and does not want to miss even a moment’s action, following the inaugural Test on TV. “It is not easy to be away, cricket is life. But you have to adjust to so many things (challenges) in life. I am spending time with my wife and son…passing the day doing small chores.”

Warnaweera’s family has become overly protective of him in his hour of crisis. “My son (an aeronautical engineer) is on leave, they are like a shadow.”

READ | Asela Gunaratne injury hurt Sri Lanka in Galle Test vs India, says Gurusinha

In the aftermath of a ban, people are bound to react differently and friends turn strangers, but not in Warnaweera’s case. “Not a single (adverse reaction). (Most people) are sorry for me.”

Warnaweera has taken the forced sabbatical in his stride and is trying to catch up with friends. “I visited friends in Bangalore…went to other places like Singapore. In a way, it is good for my health. I had never taken a holiday all my life.”

With the Galle stadium being his second home, what is his assessment of the Test? Seeing India pile up 600 runs and then putting the home team under tremendous pressure, Warnaweera said, “It is a turning wicket and it would be challenging to bat on the last two days. India hold a massive advantage.”

Warnaweera’s only wish now is to bow out with his head held high. “Even if for a short time, I will come back (after the ban), and say bye!”

First Published: Jul 27, 2017 18:09 IST