Player, match-referee, businessman - the many shoes of Roshan Mahanama

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Old 01-Jun-2016
Player, match-referee, businessman - the many shoes of Roshan Mahanama

In December last year, Roshan Mahanama, the former ICC match referee, stepped down from his position from the Elite Panel of ICC Match Referees hoping to take a break from cricket and spend some time with family. The aim was to spend more time in Sri Lanka and set up a pharmaceutical distribution business.

Mahanama's tenure, that lasted for 11 years, six months and 15 days, saw him officiate in 318 international matches across formats - the fourth highest only behind Ranjan Madugalle, Chris Broad and Jeff Crowe. He decided to step down six months ahead of the completion of his contract ending his career with the historical Australia-New Zealand day-night Test in Adelaide.

"It was a privilege to be involved with the game that I love so much and to work for the governing body," he tells Cricbuzz on being asked about how tough it was to step down. "After you've been involved with an organisation for so long, it's very difficult to leave.

"I've worked for 25 years as a player and as a match referee. It was a very hard decision that I had to take. However, I've been traveling very frequently for 25 years and I have a daughter who is 24. It'll be nice to spend time with her."

The life of an umpire or a match referee involves equal or more amount of traveling than the players. For instance, Mahanama spent a little over eight months officiating in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and India (during the eighth edition of the Indian Premier League) in 2015 alone.

Mahanama feels it's very important to have the backing of the family if one has to excel as a match referee. "They've made huge sacrifices for me when I was player and then when I decided to become a match referee," he says. "I've been blessed to have a wife and kids, who have been very understanding. The only down side of the job was time spent away from the family."

As we chat, the focus shifts on the challenges of being a match referee, how they can take the burden off the umpires and key aspects of being a successful referee.

"Our job is not easy," he asserts. "The transition from a player to a match referee is tough. You need to have good man-management and communication skills because it helps in getting the best out of people. If you have the passion and the people with whom you work with know that you respect them, it becomes a lot easier.

"See over the years the role of a match referee has evolved and we don't interfere in the traditional role of the umpire. I try to take the burden off them and taking care of various things, their security and I always tried to ensure that they take the field without any worry in their mind.

"When I was a player, I could switch off. When I became a match referee and sat on the same side with the umpires, I understood how difficult it is. There were instances where the mind wandered away from the game. I had to develop it over the years. A post-lunch session in a Test was a time where it got difficult at times. But over the years I became much better on it," he adds trying hard not to laugh.

Mahanama, till now, has lived an entire life around the game he loves so much and is quick to point out that he's not retiring from cricket just yet.

"I'm not retiring. I'm the second youngest in the panel. I still have the age on my side," he says. "I realised that I wasn't enjoying the role and the best decision would be to move away from the game for a bit, take a break and access what I need to do. I'll also got get a chance to spend time with my family.

"In 1999 when I retired as a player, I wanted to set up my own business. As a player and an administrator you are dependent on other people. And I felt that I need something to fall back to. We are into pharmaceuticals distributions and spices. Now that I'm going to spend more time in the country, I can focus on it now."

This conversation took place just ahead of Christmas. Though Mahanama had been busy attending meetings, he decided to honour the commitment made for an interview. After an hour-long meeting, he finally called ahead of another one.

Four months later we meet again. This time during the IPL game between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils in Bangalore. Though he had decided to take a break from cricket he went on to officiate in the Pakistan Super League, Masters Champions League and the IPL.

When asked about his decision of taking time off the game, he evades the question with some friendly banter before reminding us that after the IPL he'll have plenty of time for his family and his business venture.

More than the financial aspect, it's the love for the game and the relationships built that keep him going. On Tuesday (May 31), Mahanama will turn 50 and even after 61 Tests, 222 One-day Internationals and 35 Twenty20 Internationals, he still wants to be a part of the grind and be associated with the game. The carousel never stops turning, isn't it.

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