DILARA FERNANDO – Grenade in hand at ‘no ball junction’ | Daily News

DILARA FERNANDO – Grenade in hand at ‘no ball junction’

Joining the exalted company of ‘SPORTS LEGENDS’ this Friday is CONGENIGE RANDHI DILHARA FERNANDO. Before going on to chronicle his glittering career, a little anecdote and we hope he won’t be offended but take it in the spirit it is made.

FERNANDO had a penchant to consistently bowl ‘no balls.’His residence was at a junction. And for consistently bowling ‘no balls’ that junction was named ‘No ball Junction’ or ‘No ball Handiya’ by bus travelers and the conductors too were familiar with that tag and would drop the passengers at that point. Laughter accompanied this request.

FERNANDO standing well over six feet with a Tarzan like hair do, was a fast bowler in the true sense of the word. During his reign with ball, he had opposing batsmen jelly-kneed and frantic to get to the non-striker’s end and not taking the risk of being decapitated by his venomous pace fronting up to him. The venom he spat with the new ball was deadly.

Great fast bowlers

Sri Lanka has produced some great fast bowlers during the pre-Test area and I would not be doing justice if I didn’t mention them. Some and some of them I played against and faced, not only on matting also on turf, and I can vouch for their terrifying speed excellence.

Names that come to mind are – Stanley De Alwis, TB Kehelgamuwa, Norton Fredrick, Lucky Gunetilleke, Dennis Ferdinands, Sonny Yatawara, SaliyaDorenagama, NihalZoysa, Jackie Robertson and Glen Vanlagenberg. They were deadly with the new ball and on their day would be as fast as Wesley Hall, Frank Tyson, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft or Malcom Marshall.

And in that exclusive, exalted above company I would bracket FERNANDO. The school that FERNANDO came from DE MAZENOD COLLEGE, KANDANA was at one time not famous for producing cricketers, but there was a surfeit of footballers who were outstanding, especially in inter-school football.

Well over six feet

FERNANDO was ideally built for basketball but also had the imposing frame that was ideal for a fast bowler.

And although he excelled in basketball, destiny had it that he becomes one of Sri Lanka’s great fast bowlers who strode the fast bowling field like a colossus. Simple, shy, unassuming and soft spoken, FERNANDO looks harmless off field. But on the cricket field and with new ball in hand, he was like a coiled up wiper and carried that venom would come steaming in and release the ball and when ball strikes bat, one could see batsmen grimacing, because it stung the bottom hand.

A batsman who could vouch for FERNANDO’S sting was West Indian right handed batting sensation RAMNARESH SARWAN. In a World Cup game, Sarwan poised and attempted to hook a bouncer from FERNANDO. Sarwan could not read the pace generated by FERNANDO and was slow in getting bat to meet ball and the next moment Sarwan found himself flat on the ground struck on the head by FERNANDO’S life threatening delivery.

Like a grenade in hand

FERNANDO did not want to strike the batsman, what he wanted was his wicket. That was FERNANDO’S bottom line every time his captain called on him to bowl. The ball was like a grenade to him. He would fling it at batsmen, not for a moment wanting to injure him, but thirsting for his wicket and that thirst would be quenched when he sees that batsman’s name in his wicket taking column. Other bowlers that De Mazenod College produced after coming into big school cricket were another pace man in Dhammika Prasad and mystery left arm spinner Lakshan Sandakan. Sandakan has a juicy future before him but he must be persisted with.

Another incident that needs recalling and what was clever of FERNANDO and interesting and I was there covering the event for the ‘Daily News’ and ‘Sunday Observer’ was this and it happened in a World Cup game in the West Indies in 2007 against England.

Super eight game

It was a super eight game and FERNANDO showed guts with Sri Lanka netting a score of 235. England was looking for three runs to get from one delivery. To Ravi Bopara the big hitting England batsman fell the task of obtaining those runs to boost his side’s chances of advancing to the next round.

Skipper Mahela Jayewardene handed the ball to FERNANDO. With tension and pressure mounting, FERNANDO ran in as if to deliver, saw Bopara moving to the off side in an attempt to hit the ball to the leg side and stopped. He went back ran in and Bopara was non plussed as to what stroke to play but stood stunned as a beauty from FERNANDO beat him to clip his off stump and give Sri Lanka a win by two runs.

FERNANDO had a hand in Sri Lanka’s first win against South Africa atKingsmead in Durban. It was a big task for the home team to get 450 for victory. FERNANDO with some lively pace bowling struck early to begin the torment with a peach of a delivery to send back SA captain Graeme Smith. FERNANDO then sent back Ashwell Prince to break the back of the batting and ended up with figures of two for 29 as Sri Lanka created history winning by 208 runs.

Creditable achievements

FERNANDO has many more creditable achievements in his glittering career. To detail them will need reams of newsprint. But like most fast bowlers tend to suffer, FERNANDO too was plagued with injuries and also suffered blips in form and had to bow out of the game. He will be best remembered for having the ability to bowl a well-disguised slow delivery and a slow bouncer without any change in his action that baffled all batsmen.

FERNANDO was spotted by former Sri Lanka Captain ArjunaRanatunga who invited him to join the leading club in the country the Sinhalese Sports Club and from the time he ran in to bowl the first ball for the Maitland Place Club, success was writ for him and it did not take long for him to proudly sport the national cap and become the first Mazenodian to play for the country. 


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