Bandula Warnapura the pioneer in Test cricket fires a salvo | Daily News


Bandula Warnapura the pioneer in Test cricket fires a salvo

Bandula Warnapura
Bandula Warnapura

With all the turmoil going around in the cricketing circles nowadays, I had the opportunity to interview Bandula Warnapura., I found Bandulamalli as a down to earth, placid guy who knew his subject inside out. He also allowed me a peep at the vagaries of cricket which has caused turbulence not only with the cricket fans but also with the man on the street. In next to no time I expect the housewives to join the band wagon in finding a solution that has caused untold misery to the lovers of cricket.

Bandula was not only the first Test cricket captain but he had the privilege of facing the first ball and scoring the first run in that inaugural Test Match against England in 1982 at the P Sara Oval. He is an old boy of Nalanda College Colombo. Bandula captained Nalanda College Colombo first XI cricket team in 1971. He has worked as an ICC match referee and an umpire, and is also a certified cricketing coach. He has served as the coach for the Sri Lanka national cricket team, before he was appointed Director of Coaching in 1994. He became Director of Operations of Sri Lanka Cricket in 2001.He functioned in that post for eight years before he resigned in 2008.

In 1966 Nalanda College did not have a cricket captain as such. Nelson Mendis arrived at the scene during this period and became the the Master in Charge of cricket. He was accommodated in the hostel. To his surprise Mendis found out at 2.30 pm the boys have not started practice proper but instead they were fooling around. Mendis summoned Bandula since he was vying for the captaincy spot. To Bandula’s surprise Nelson Mendis did not offer the captaincy to him first up, instead he wanted one day to check Bandula’s credentials.

The following day, Nelson Mendis turned up sharp at 2.30 pm at the grounds, smartly attired and “as usual not a hair out of place”, to his utter dismay, he found the ground empty. Bandula recalls that the first thing he did was to call up a meeting with him and his co cricketers. Then he looked up at Bandula and questioned him as to who the appointed captain was? Bandula said he was, but Nelson Mendis replied with a firm no, because he wanted to check Bandula’s records, Bandula states that he came down to earth immediately, he also noted that Mendis had a deep voice. However, the very next day Bandula was made the captain and after that Mendis as the master in charge and the coach got on well with the captain.

Bandula recalls that Vaas Gunewardene (a nippy medium pacer who gave me a thumping whack on my ribs during the 1966 big match whilst battling my way to a well grafted half a century at the P Sara Oval), was the coach before Nelson Mendis took over. Bandula stated that Mendis took charge of the under 12 to under 16 cricketers and never interfered with their natural talents. Bandula also had a special word for his ‘Guru’ late Mr Gerry Gooneratne, who attended practices from 4.30 to 5.30 and by and large was a silent observer who corrected the finer points of his charges in a meticulous way. Bandula also points out that those who came under the wing of Gerry Gooneratne had to speak to him in English because Gerry hardly understood Sinhala; this was in a way beneficial to them so that they could be fairly fluent in the “Queens English.”

Reverting back to Nelson Mendis, Bandula adds that Mendis attended practices from 2.30 to 6.00 pm, and what really took place was that Mendis fed the basics to the charges, for Gerry Gooneratne to give the final touches. This combination of two brilliant coaches produced many outstanding Nalandian cricketers of international repute, Including Bandula Waranapura, Lalith Kaluperuma, Asanka Gurusinha, Kumar Dharmasena and the list goes on.

Bandula was also keen to point out that there was another set of coaches, namely Gerry Gooneratne and one Kandaswamy, Bandula regrets that he cannot recollect Mr Kandaswamy’s first name. This combination produced another batch of illustrious cricketers starting with Stanley Jayasinghe, Carl and Valentine Obeysekera (twins), Ashley de Silva, Chandrasiri Weerasinghe (highly underrated), Sarath Silva, Amarasiri Gunasena et al Gerry Gooneratne was the common factor in producing all these fantastic cricketers with a lot of flair, unlike the copy book brigade which was also in the limelight in that era.

Bandula also recollects one Mr Romiel who was prominent as a cricket coach before Nelson Mendis came into the picture. During those days it was common for the coaches to spend their personal money on their charges, such was the commitment and the dedication they had for their posts, nowadays most of the coaching ‘kades’ which has sprouted all over Colombo are just keen on lining their pockets laments Bandula.

When inquired about the present sad state of affairs, Bandula was of the view that the batting order should be fixed without shuffling the order like a pack of cards, interestingly he mentions about strike rates which should be as follows;


TESTS 60 to 70 runs

ODI’S 70 to 85 runs

T20 100 and above

Bandula mentions that this is common sense and not “rocket science” so people should stick to the basics.

Another interesting point of his is that when a replacement is made to an injured player, the player who gets the opportunity for the replacement should make the best use of it, most of the time what happened was that after one opportunity he has been discarded to the ‘sin bin’ or he himself commits suicide by going crash bang from the word ‘go’ and gets out and the rot sets in. Bandula suggests that there should be only 10 or 12 teams in the top league where as of now there are 24 teams and it dilutes the player quality. He is also quick to point out that some of the players are benefitted by playing in certain clubs.

Bandula went on to state that the Sports Law should also be changed, he says that the selectors are appointed by the Sports Minister, and the team which is selected by selectors goes for the Ministerial approval, this set up is like a “wheel within a wheel.” He stated that this system should be done away with as soon as possible.

Interestingly Bandula was invited to be the Chairman of Selectors not so long ago but he refused due to the existing Sports Law. Bandula mentions that if everyone is given a free hand, e.g. top to bottom to work towards the development of the game he is willing to join hands and further states that the Pallekele Stadium was developed under his leadership when he was working as the Director of Operations at no extra allowance or fee.

He was given a free hand by the then chairman and a close associate of his and the cost was less than 50% of the other stadiums built.

This is food for thought! 

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