The electric all rounder of class | Daily News


The electric all rounder of class

Ananda College a leading Buddhist seat of learning in the country, which has produced some outstanding sporting politicians including the present President of the country Gotabaya Rajapaksa has also produced some excellent cricketers down the ages.

This galaxy of cricketers to mention a few are Daya Amarasinghe, Palitha Premasiri, Ananda Ranasinghe a left arm dual purpose bowler, Sonny Yatawara, the Wettimuny brothers Mithra, Sunil and Sidat, the Ranatunga brothers Dhamika, Arjuna, Nishantha and Sanjeewa, Ajit de Silva, Marvan Atapattu, Avishka Gunewardena and Dinesh Chandimal to mention a few.

In the 1960s Ananda also produced excellent willow wielders in Yatigama Amaradasa, T.D. Rajapksa and and an extra ordinary excellent all rounder in SARATH RANSIRI WIMALARATNE who we are proud to feature as our ‘SPORTS LEGEND’ this Friday.

WIMALARATNE showcased his prowess as an all rounder in the 1960s for his school Ananda, club Sinhalese Sports Club and the country. He was a dashing right hand opening batsman, a lively right arm medium pacer and an energetic fielder.

WIMALARATNE was a cricketer captains would have yearned to have in the side. It was electric with him on the field —the grid was able to deliver in all aspects of the game and with him in the team Ananda won many inter-school matches, beating with ease some of the more renowned schools.

That was the era when schools played a maximum of seven matches including the third term fixtures unlike today where schools in all play over 20 matches a season. Unbelievable.

Back to our legend, WIMALARATNE and after playing for Ananda, University, SSC and Sri Lanka qualified as a doctor, first serving in Canberra and now full time in Sydney, Australia.

WIMALARATNE had the honor of captaining Ananda in 1962 and then toured India under Yatagama Amaradasa and which team had the cream of schoolboy cricketing talent who had a successful tour of the sub continent.

He had the opportunity of sporting the country’s cap when he was chosen to tour and play against Pakistan in 1966/67.

He played his first, first class match against Madras in the Gopalan Trophy in 1966,but did not meet with success of significance.

But it was in the Gopalan encounter of 1967/68 that he enjoyed success. He led from the front and by example and steered his team to victory with a classic display of swing bowling to rattle the Madras batsmen returning figures of 5 for 32 and 5 for 36.

WIMALARATNE was first picked for the country when he toured Pakistan in 1966/67 under Michael Tissera and played in all three Unofficial Test matches.

Being primarily an opening batsman, it was a surprise to watch him bat at number 11 and top scoring with an unbeaten 41.

He was pushed to his accustomed opening slot in the Second Test scoring 28 and 27 and with his opening partner Fritz Crozier putting on stands of 44 and 67. He later played against the West Indies at the Sara Oval.

On that tour the Pakistanis had a fine set of cricketers who made the world take notice of them. They were the Mohammed Brothers Hanif, Mushtaq and all rounders Asif Iqbal and Intikhab Alam. It will be of interest to mention that Hanif made a mammoth triple century against England.

While he enjoyed his cricket playing for Ananda, SSC and the country, WIMALARATNE’S greatest disappointment was not being selected for the first ever tour to England to play the counties after performing creditably. How he wasn't selected still remains a mystery.

However bungling by the selectors of that time and with controversy raging the tour failed to materialize and it was a big setback in the country’s endeavor to force the Lords at Lord’s to admit the country as a full member of the International Cricket Council. Cricketers and cricket fans of that era still talk about that towering blunder.

When he played against the West Indies WIMALARATNE was proud to win the Best Bowler’s award. Believe it or not the mighty Windies made 549 for 8 with WIMALARATNE who opened the bowling with the gangling Ian Pieris pocketing four for 141 although being hit all over the field and his victims that he still remembers are Bryan Davis, Seymour Nurse, Clive Lloyd who led the Windies and wicket keeper Deryck Murray.

At Anand under the captaincy of Yatagama Amaradasa the team performed pleasingly with players of the caliber of Amaradasa, Parakarama Polonowita, T.D. Rajapakse and all rounder Mohanlal Fernando who like WIMALARATNE became a doctor.

Right hander Rajapaksa played the best cover drive which was a treat to watch. When St.Benedict’s College played Ananda at Kotahena in 1961 which year inter-school matches were curtailed due to the schools take over, I remember foxing and trapping Rajapakse when he was readying to cover drive with a googly which he misread and was deceived and was plumb LBW. That season Amaradasa who performed magnificently was chosen the ‘Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’.

One incident that is still vivid in WIMALARATNE’S mind was this. In those days there were the zonal matches. Playing for Colombo North Lucky Goonetilleke a terrifying left arm paceman opened the bowling and after sending down the first over, Goonetilleke wanted to change ends.

This forced Captain Amaradasa to toss the ball to WIMALARATNE and wanted him to bowl a tight over. As a change bowler he struck telling blows capturing two wickets in his first over and another wicket in the next over. He was unplayable bagging 8 for 23 and mesmerizing the opposing batsmen to help Colombo North emerge champs that year.

That telling performance saw him being picked to tour India with the Ceylon Schoolboys team which team also included a galaxy of schoolboy cricketing talent under Amaradasa. Others were Darrell Lieversz, Hilary Marcelline, Nanda Senaayake, Ranjit Fernando, Raja de Silva, Placidus Liyanage, Keith Labrooy and the speed missile T.B. Kehelgamuwa. The Indian team feared the pace of Kehelgamuwa and in one game he took 8 for 8.

To toot my horn a bit, when St. Bens played Ananda at Kotahena, the Bens were in bad way losing 8 for 53 with left arm spinner Dharmasiri de Silva ripping out the early batsmen and going in for tea with a final full session to go.

The Anandians were singing and dancing sniffing victory, but they did not bargain for a fighting 9th wicket stand between the writer who made an unbeaten 60 odd and off spinner Gordon Dissanayake and we batted the entire session after tea to deprive Ananda of victory and earn St.Bens a respectable draw from the jaws of defeat.

Coach Bertie Wijesinha told the two of us at tea, that a game is not won or lost till the final ball is bowled and instilled confidence in us not to fear but to go out and bat the way he knew we can.

A.V. Fernando who was the Ananda coach at that time told his cricketers not to take it easy. But they were confident they could win and what happened is history now. ‘A.V’ or ‘Alban’ who was the cricket writer at the ‘Times’ and who I had the fortune to learn my cricket writing from when I began my career just after that memorable Ananda match related that story to me. He admired our determination that saved the game.

Back to WIMALARATNE and this writer who played against him makes bold to say that all rounders of his caliber are what the game in the country badly requires today.

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