Anura Tennekoon’s impeccable technique | Daily News

Anura Tennekoon’s impeccable technique

ANURA TENNEKOON was in a class of his own: stylish, elegant and graceful. He stood tall and scored a lot of runs during the Pre-Test cricket era and did his school , S.Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, his club Sinhalese Sports Club and then his Country Sri Lanka proud.

A right handed batsman, he wielded the straightest of bats when at the wicket and safeguarded his wicket as though his life depended on it. He jealously guarded his wicket, made bowlers work hard for his prized scalp and scored runs on a regular basis for school, club and country.

TENNEKOON had all the strokes from the book with the on drove being his main scoring stroke.. He had his early polishing that is so vital for progress from that famous coach of that era at St. Thomas' the famous and likeable Lassie Abeywardena from whose stables came out several winners and of whom cricketers, who went through his teaching and showing ,still talk about.

Basics from Abeywardena

After learning his basics from Abeywardena at the beginning of his career, he had the good fortune of coming under that, arguably that coach of coaches who every cricketer would have been yearning to have a stint under ----with Bertie Wijesinha, also a proud, distinguished and illustrious Old Thomian. Bertie made ANURA the complete cricketer. The writer was one of the fortunate few to be blessed with Wijesinha’s coaching at St.Ben’s in the early 1960s when WIJESINHA had a successful run for a few years.

TENNEKOON who had a successful run in school cricket was also winner of the ‘Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ award. His batting was well organized, disciplined and the hall mark was that he always offered a straight bat and it is a far cry from the modern day batsmen who play some weird and ungainly looking strokes like the reverse sweep, switch hit, the scoop or the helicopter shot.

TENNEKOON is the only cricketer to captain the country in two World Cups played in England – the inaugural one in 1975 and the second one in 1979. That is a record he can certainly be proud of. The right hand batsman who was also a hawk eyed fielder close to the wicket was born in the sacred city of Anuradhapura before moving to Colombo and gaining admission to STCML where he grew in stature and where in cricket he began to show signs of being one o the best batsmen produced by the country.

Baptism of fire

TENNEKOON’S baptism of fire in the big league came when he was still not out of his teens. After his harvest of runs in school cricket the selectors noticing his unlimited batting talent pitted him as a 19-year old schoolboy against Mike Smith’s MCC team in 1965 in a one dayer.

Although making an unbeaten 4 runs batting in the middle order, the experience he gained from that first big game and the atmosphere in the dressing room and the pressure on the field was enormous and stood him in good stead for the remainder of his career that stretched for 14 years, captaining the country for five years.

TENNEKOON had the rare ability to concentrate for long periods when striking. In addition, his technique was exemplary and playing long and big innings came naturally to him. From batting in the middle he moved to the number three position that is the most difficult position to bat in, because most times you have to face the new ball. His approach, technique, immense concentration and the ability to withstand pressure and thirst for runs which was unquenchable made him the man for that responsible position.

Momentous and memorable

Of the many big innings and the bagful of runs TENNEKOON scored in his glittering international career as batsman and captain for five years was the momentous and memorable unbeaten 169 he scored. This was against a strong Indian team led by one of India’s most successful captain’s Ajit Wadekar in a Test match at his home ground SSC when Sri Lanka was facing a certain innings defeat.

As Captain with trust, responsibility and determination he defied a strong Indian attack led by paceman Panduran Slagaocar which innings saved the country from the ignominy of an innings defeat. In his long innings which was faultless he had good support coming from his school and SSC team mate the all rounder one and only H.S.Mevan Pieris who kept his end up with a stubborn, high class defence and Old Nalandian Jayantha Seneviratne another eye catching batsman who supported TENNEKOON. Pieris later on came to be tagged the ‘king of swing’.

Then TENNEKOON excelled in that famous Prudential World Cup game against Australia partnering Michael Tissera and facing the life threatening pace of Denis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in 1975. Australia had made 328 and reply Sri Lanka made 276 for 4 in 60 overs. Had not Thomson struck out Sunil Wettimuny and Duleep Mendis the margin of defeat would not have been that big. TENNEKOON missed a half ton and Tissera scored a half century.

Enough is enough

TENNEKOON said enough is enough after playing for the country for 14 years. However he continued to serve the game and was the first manager when Sri Lanka made their first tour to Pakistan in 1982 after gaining Test status. His assistant was my school team mate Ranjit Fernando and I had the honour of being the first journalist to tour with the team describing the tour for the ‘Daily Mirror’, ’Times’ and ‘Sunday Times’.

TENNEKOON also added administrative feathers to his cricketing cap by being a selector, chairman of selectors, secretary of the Cricket Board, Chief Executive Officer of the Cricket Foundation and CEO of Sri Lanka Cricket.

I would like to modestly mention I had the opportunity of playing against TENNEKOON in two games. Firstly at the SSC in a Sara Trophy game between SSC and Saracens. When I had made 32 he caught me in the slips when I edged a bowler off my kind leg spinner Lareef Idroos. That game ended in an exciting draw in favour of Saracens with Mevan Pieris holding the fort with a stubborn unbeaten innings.

As ANURA TENEKOON strode the cricketing fields, he distinguished himself as a Gentleman Cricketer who naturally fits in today as a classy cricket Legend that generations will remember 


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