Sri Lankan Roshan Mahanama is going to sign off as match referee by the end of this year. He has had an illustrious career as match referee remaining controversy free, akin to his cricketing career for Sri Lanka. The good thing this time around is that Mahanama is calling it a day on his terms unlike his cricketing career, where he was given a raw deal by the Sri Lankan selectors.
After the disastrous 1999 World Cup campaign, Mahanama was dropped to groom young talent. However, players older than him continued to be given chances in the national team. This double standards hurt Mahanama and he chose to retire. His pain was clearly visible through the title of his autobiography ‘Retired Hurt’.
But the love for the game made him begin a second innings of his cricketing career, as a match referee. He had the honour of being match referee of three ICC World Cups and 2009 ICC Champions Trophy. He has refereed in 58 Tests, 222 ODIs and 35 T20s till date.
Despite being shortchanged during his cricketing days, Mahanama has no regret and is happy to sign off this phase of his career to focus on family matters. He said, “The journey of almost 12 years as an ICC match referee has been amazing and something for me to reflect upon with pride and satisfaction. I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some outstanding professionals, refereed at some great matches and visited some incredible places along the way”.
As a cricketer, Mahanama was the grinder whose batting statistics does not do justice to his talent. He has a batting average of 20s in both Tests and ODI’s. His strike rate of 60.57 in ODIs would be too low by current standards.
He served Sri Lankan cricket as an opener for ODI’s for most part of his career. But the advent of the marauding Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana saw him being relegated to the middle-order. But he remained an integral part of the Sri Lankan batting line-up. He was part of the 1996 World Cup winning campaign.
His game was more suited to the longer format of the game though. He combined with Sanath Jayasuriya to stitch a record partnership of 576 runs for the second wicket in the Test against India in 1997. He was a slow and steady batsman, moulded out of the old school of cricket.
But as a match referee, he has reclaimed lost glory. When Mahanama rewrites his autobiography after retirement as match referee, he would perhaps choose a happier title than ‘Retired hurt’. ‘Retired successfully’, perhaps!