Former Sri Lankan batsman Romesh Kaluwitharan also known as 'Kalu' is well remembered by the cricket fans for the revolution he brought about to opening the batting in the limited overs format. Along with the short statured Sri Lankan great Sanath Jayasuriya, he transformed the role of an opening batsman to an all-attacking aggressor.
Former Sri Lankan batsman Romesh Kaluwitharan also known as ‘Kalu’ is well remembered by the cricket fans for the revolution he brought about to opening the batting in the limited overs format. Along with the short statured Sri Lankan great Sanath Jayasuriya, he transformed the role of an opening batsman to an all-attacking aggressor. Kalu’s major weakness of playing a similar shot too many times in the middle-order turned into a massive advantage after he was promoted to the top. The pint sized dynamo was not afraid to take on any fast bowler of his time in the initial overs.
However, off the pitch and in real life, Kalu described another hair-raising incident. During an interaction with Indian Express at Pallekele he said once he was surrounded by six wild elephants at the Udawalawe National Park with his wife and 10-year-old son, Ramith, for company inside his car. But he did not panic. He instead kept his calm and got the herd to retreat with some madcap honking and thumping of the bonnet. “The escape route was narrow and I had very little chance to survive by pressing the accelerator. The elephants would have reacted. We had to wait until they calmed down. The whole thing was scary, a lot more frightful than facing deadly fast bowlers on a green-top,” he said.
Five years down the line he now recalls the scene with a funny touch to it and reveals that the former kamikaze opener had developed a penchant for living life on the edge off the field as well. As per the report, he said, I had once been chased by an elephant earlier also. It was just one elephant. The second time, I made the mistake of going close to them during their mating season.”
He said,”My batting style was natural. Maybe, it was like that because I have always been a fan of nature and wildlife,” said Kalu. He added,“During my cricket tours also, I used to visit national parks whenever possible.”
The former Sri Lankan batsman’s refuge is a luxury jungle retreat at Udawalawe in southern Sri Lanka. But there is more to Kalu’s dynamic personality. The Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home is the only proper elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka. Elephants that are orphaned are rehabilitated there. Kalu contributes by supplying milk for elephants whenever there is a scarcity. The former cricketer is now into spreading awareness among people near wildlife sanctuaries not to buy, sell or eat the meat of the animals that are hunted.
Kalu has never been exposed to T20I format. Now a national selector, he was a Sri Lankan A team coach for six and a half years. He was responsible for the development of the likes of Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka to name a few. But after this Kalu was never approached for coaching except for the IPL franchise. “Actually yes, I’m surprised. Also, I like to coach for short stints. I’m still keeping myself fit. If I have an opportunity, I would gladly take it in any capacity.”