Fearless Michael never minced his words | Daily News

Appreciation

Fearless Michael never minced his words

Michael de Zoysa
Michael de Zoysa

Michael de Zoysa who passed away on Sunday, a day before his 73rd birthday was a man of many parts connected to cricket.

The son of former Sri Lanka cricketer and cricket commentator Lucien de Zoysa, Michael, a former Thomian was not only a pillar of SSC cricket but also contributed towards the development of the country’s cricket in a big way in the capacity of holding many positions in the executive committees of Sri Lanka Cricket and as manager of the Sri Lanka team.

Michael gave his heart and soul to SSC a club he served loyally for several decades as a player and administrator and more notably as curator of the SSC cricket ground. Succeeding the late Ranil Abeynaike, Michael has overseen the management of the SSC grounds and its precious wickets for quite a long time so that when the Australian team led by Steve Smith complained about the pitch prepared for the third and final Test at the SSC in 2016, it ignited the ire of Michael who branded them as ‘The Ugly Australians’.

“All I can say is that they are poor losers. They came to Sri Lanka hoping to steam roll our team following our losses in England, but to their surprise they find themselves 0-2 down in the series and the possibility of being white-washed if they lose this Test, so they are whingeing at every turn,” said Michael. For the record the Aussies lost the series 0-3 losing the final Test at the SSC by 163 runs.

One of the finest contributions Michael made to Sri Lanka cricket was seeing the development of Angelo Mathews as a player and captain when he was in charge of the national team as manager from February 2013 till the end of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. It was a period where Sri Lanka had quite a lot of success the highlight being winning their first-ever Test series in England under Mathews and the World T20 in Bangladesh under Lasith Malinga – both achievements in 2014.

"From the time he (Angelo Mathews) captained in the Bangladesh series through to the end of the 2015 World Cup, it was marvellous to see a young man really filling the shoes he was intended to fill," Michael said.

Mathews in his tribute to his former manager said, “Mr Michael de Zoysa was such a passionate person he gave everything he had towards cricket and he was a father figure to all of us. It’s so sad to hear of his demise. He always wanted us to win playing the game in the right spirit. As manager he went out of the way to help the guys and we could always go up and talk to him, he advised you on life, cricket and everything. He was such a humble personality a straightforward person and an amazing human being.”

A straight talker prepared to level criticism at one's face, Michael was fearless and did not mince his words.

During the 2015 World Cup when Sri Lanka were given a tough schedule where they frequented between Australia and New Zealand to play their matches Michael was asked by a senior cricket writer whether the constant travel between countries was tough on his team.

Michael’s reply was “It’s tough but it doesn’t matter, England is a bye.” When word got around to the England camp the British press picked up the Sri Lankan manager’s statement and one broadsheet said, ‘Sri Lankan manager snubs England,’.

True to his word Sri Lanka went onto beat England quite comprehensively by nine wickets at Wellington with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara scoring hundreds apiece.

Sri Lanka Cricket CEO Ashley de Silva in a statement said, “’Sri Lanka Cricket wishes to express our deepest condolences to Mr. Zoyza’s family at this moment of sorrow. ’Michael was a great man with a good character and had a proactive mindset. The cricketing fraternity will immensely miss his presence.”

As a mark of respect to its former manager the Sri Lanka team members sported a black arm band during the second ODI against Pakistan at Karachi yesterday.


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