Batter cities “familial obligations” in a letter to Sri Lanka Cricket
“I have very carefully considered my position as a player, husband and am taking this decision looking forward to fatherhood and associated familial obligations,” SLC cited Rajapaksa’s resignation letter as stating.
Despite only a brief period on the international stage, Rajapaksa has had his fair share of career ups and downs. Known for his explosive middle-order hitting, the left-handed bat first made waves as a promising schoolboy cricketer. He most-notably finished as Sri Lanka’s top run scorer in the 2010 Under-19 World Cup.
The next decade saw Rajapaksa grind the domestic circuit. He made 4087 first-class runs at an average of 36.49. In List A (and T20 cricket, he made 2842 and 1912 runs respectively. In choosing to retire, he gives an undoubted sense of unfulfilled potential.
This would prove to be a theme of sorts after Rajapaksa eventually made his national team debut in 2019 with the T20 side; he would make his ODI debut in 2021. His 18 T20Is brought 320 runs at an average of 26.66, including two fifties, the second of which was a memorable match-winning effort in a 2021 T20 World Cup chase against Bangladesh, while his five ODIS produced 89 runs at 17.80. He also last month led the Galle Gladiators to the final of the Lanka Premier League, where his team lost out to the Jaffna Stallions.
Much of the noise surrounding the 30-year-old though has stemmed from his run-ins with the board surrounding his fitness. He was fined US$ 5000 in July last year after he gave an interview in which he criticised his omission from the national team. This prompted then head coach Mickey Arthur to hit back, calling into question the Rajapaksa’s attitude. Rajapaksa is understood to have failed a mandatory skinfold test, while was also pulled up for poor weight management and substandard fielding.
The reintroduction of skinfold tests had been part of a fitness-oriented revamp of Sri Lanka cricket’s selection process. Rajapaksa, to his credit, worked on his fitness and fielding and found his way back into the national side, where he and Arthur eventually patched up their relationship.
Rajapaksa acknowledged the “differences” the pair had in a farewell tweet following the end of Arthur’s tenure last month, to which Arthur responded: “I am so glad that you are delivering on your amazing talent and loved working with you! I just want to see you be the best you can be….keep on this path and the world is your oyster!”
Prior to Arthur’s departure as head coach, Rajapaksa had become a regular member of the Sri Lanka national setup, however this seemed to once more be brought into question after SLC last month announced tougher fitness benchmarks starting from 2022.
Players will now be expected to run 2km in a minimum of 8.10 minutes, down from 8.55 minutes last year, itself increased from the original benchmark of 8.35 minutes following player complaints. As things stand, players who run below 8.10 minutes will be eligible for selection, while those who clear 8.35 minutes will be eligible for selection but with a percentage of their contract fee withheld. Skinfold test benchmarks meanwhile have reduced from 85 to 70.
There has been speculation that Rajapaksa’s decision to resign was prompted by the new fitness requirements.
Former Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga has been one of the notable voices asking Rajapaksa to reconsider his decision. “Representing your country at International level is not an easy task and players always face so many challenges. I truly believe that @BhanukaRajapak3 has a lot more to give to Sri Lankan cricket and I request him to reconsider his decision to retire from International cricket,” Malinga tweeted.