News Bar »
Francis was a member of the Tamil Union team that won the A division in the tournament conducted by the then Ceylon Cricket Association and were the first winners of the P. Saravanamuttu Trophy in 1950/51.
Before going to describe Casie Chitty’s batting skills, it would be of more than ordinary interest for sports fans, especially cricket fans present and past to know that Casie Chitty is the only living legend of that Tamils team that was and never will be.
That team led by the mercurial Sathi Coomaraswamy had players who could have found a place not only in the Ceylon team, but also in any world team.
Francis says that he is not trying to belittle the present crop of champion Sri Lankan cricketers, but is convinced that if some of the players of that TU C & AC team had the present day opportunities, they would have bowled out any opposition and slaughtered all bowling attacks.
Before going on to elaborate on those legends here’s the 15 marvellous men who did the club proud - Sathi Coomaraswamy (capt), F.X.J. Casie Chitty, A. Mylvaganam, T. Jayalingam, S. Pathmanathan, T. Parathalingam, J. Felix, S. David, S. Kadirgamer, M. Kasipillai, T. B. Fernandopulle, M. Sathasivam, C. Dharmalingam, S. Nagendra and T. Murugeser.
Now isn’t that a formidable and star-studded team that any club would have been proud of and those names would sure have struck fear on all their opponents.
In Coomaraswamy they had a captain with a shrewd cricketing brain and one who got the best out of his team by example. Coomaraswamy was a hard hitting batsman, a medium pacer who could swing the ball both ways and was a beautiful fielder.
These are the schools from which this champion outfit came from. S. Coomaraswamy, S. Kadirgamer, M. Kasipillai, T. Murugeser, S. Pathmanathan, T. Parathalingam (Royal), M, Sathasivam, A. Mylvaganam, S. Nagendra (Wesley), T. Jayalingam (S.Thomas), J. Felix (St. Peter’s), F.X.J. Casie Chitty, T. B. Fernandopulle (St. Benedict’s), S. David, C. Dharmalingam (Trinity).
It would be of interest to note that six of these players came from Royal.
Casie Chitty speaks in glowing terms of his team mates who played as one team and made mincemeat of all opposition in winning that trophy. The Tamil Union has yet to find a team that could emulate that wonderful team of 1950/51.
Casie Chitty was a very correct opening batsman and with his wide array of stokes automatically found a place in this galaxy of cricketers.
In that season Casie Chitty scored heavily, but for reasons known only to the selectors of that time, he was deprived of a Ceylon cap and that was a great injustice perpetrated on an opening batsman of his calibre.
Undaunted by this setback, he continued to perform with the bat and he laid the platform for the batsmen following to give their side formidable totals.
With a sigh that showed the disappointment, Casie Chitty still can’t understand as to why and what made the selectors not pencil his name in the Ceylon line up.
He says that not being selected to play for Ceylon when he was at his best was inexplicable.
The batsmen who helped the team make formidable totals were Francis Casie Chitty and S. Nagendra, T. Jayalingham, M. Sathasivam, S. Coomaraswamy, M. Kasipillai, T. Murugeesar, T.B. Fernandopulle, while the bowling was in the capable hands of S. Pathmanathan and Coomaraswamy who used the new ball followed by C. Dharmalingam who according to Francis was a bowler in the mould of a Underwood and who would make the ball talk if it was a slightly damp pitch. Then there was Jeff Felix vicious off spin, A. Mylvaganam sharp cutters and Parathalingam also off spin.
Mahadevan Sathasivam was a batting genius and the cynosure of all eyes when he took strike. For him scoring heavily was the rule and an occasional failure the exception.
While 14 of these players have crossed the great divide, Francis is the only survivor. As he says he is just touching 80 and we wish him many more years of good health and happiness.
Francis not only excelled in cricket. He captained his school SBC in 1948 and in addition to cricket won colours in athletics and tennis.
His two brothers Freddie and Neville too followed in his footsteps and captained the school in 1949 and 1958. This probably would have been the first instance where three brothers captained the school. Sadly Freddie’s name does not appear in the board where the names of the college captains have been mentioned at the Old Bens Sports Club.
Francis was also a top class billiard and snooker player. There were many titles he won in this sport. But the one he treasures most is being Lanka Plate Champion in billiards / snooker in the 50s.
He was in the cue game during the reign of the king of the green baize M.J.M. Lafir who was the first to win a world title in sport for Sri Lanka.
Francis was a seeded player with Lafir and Mujaid.
Incidently Francis coached the SBC team that was captained by his younger brother Neville in 1958.
The Tamil Union was my first club and I had the honour of playing with some of players who made the TU champions. They were Sathasivam, Parathalingam, Jayalingam, Mylvagnam, T. Murugeesar and T.B. Fernandopulle. Fernandopulle whose other eight brothers kept wickets for St. Benedict’s was the wicket keeper when I played in the TU ‘Daily News’ winning team in 1960/61 and if I remember right it was Murugeesar who was the captain.
But what left a bad taste in the mouth was that they did not have the courtesy to invite me for the photograph considering that I won the club’s bowling prize that year.
To be seen in the company of ‘Satha’ was to be looked on in awe.
In the twilight of his life he was a dear companion of the writer and Gamini Perera ‘Times Group’ and ‘Satha’ regaled us with amusing anecdotes and what he finally confided in me will always remain.
Coincidentally while doing this article I am in the midst of finishing ‘A murder in Sri Lanka’ by Professor Ravindra Fernando.