Of Inspiring yesteryear school cricket greats | Daily News


Of Inspiring yesteryear school cricket greats

In my first column last week I made mention of the excellent Colombo school cricketers who donned pads and who crowds flock every week to watch their heroics.

Today I mention outstation cricketers who were also talented and who could have held their own against the best Colombo school cricketers, but must be stated were not given fixtures by the leading Colombo Schools.

At the time of writing the national team is dominated by several cricketers from the outstations which has done those schools and its cricketers proud.

Before going on to sing the praises of the outstation cricketers now dominating the game, it is important that I mention the former Sri Lankan off spinning all rounder ABU FUARD who brought outstations cricketers to rub shoulders with their counterparts in Colombo and show them that what they can do we can do better.

During the early days before Sri Lanka took its rightful seat with the lords at Lord’s, only ‘whistle stop’ or an unofficial game was played here or a team made an occasional tour, the Sri Lanka teams were made up of cricketers from Royal and S. Thomas, Mount Lavinia.

The team selections went like this – five Royalists, five Thomians and the eleventh player too would have been from the two schools if not for the indispensable, mercurial and elegant batsman from Wesley College the one and only MAHADEVAN SATHASIVAM who could not be left out.

Watching this Royal-Thomian dominance from the sidelines and who too suffered because of this dominance was ABU FUARD who unable to tolerate this injustice took it upon himself to change the scenario.

Firstly he broke the dominance where Old Royalists and Old Thomians held sway in the Cricket Board. When election time came around he fielded as officials from the schools that were neglected and leading a vigorous campaign he succeeded in getting his men in to the administration which prompted a change giving outstation school cricketers recognition.

What some of the outstation school cricketers did in international cricket is down in history now and like good wine needs no bush. With the doors to represent the country open outstation cricketers began blossoming and the national team today sees a lot of outstation representation.

That was the turning point in the history of the game and cricketers from the outstations must pay pooja to FUARD for breaking through that elite circle and giving them a place in the sun and these cricketers did not let him down showing their prowess in the game.

FUARD who was a rare all round cricketer to come out of Wesley College which school also gave Brian Claessen as a schoolboy cricketer to the country, suffered untold discrimination and this made him turn rebel and revolt against the domination of the elite.

Cricketers who shot like bolts from the blues and put the country in equal terms with international teams were Sanath Jayasuriya who I tagged the ‘black superman’, Champaka Ramanayake, Pramodaya Wickremasinghe, Jayananda Warnaweera, Lasith Malinga, Ajit de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Ravindra Pushpaumara and Don Anurasiri come to mind.Now there are many.

Most of them donned the Sri Lankan cap with great pride and showed that they could do better were Jayasuriya, Ramanayake, Wickremasinghe, Ajit de silva and Dinesh Chandimal.

Then other cricketers who entered the portals were Muttiah Muralitheran who is the highest wicket taker in Test cricket, Ruwan Kalpage, Kumar Sangakkara who is riding a crest of a wave of success in administration after retirement, Sonny Yatawara, T.B.Kehelgamuwa, Dilhara Fernando, Dhammika Prasad, Sandakan Lakshan, Warindu Hasaranga and many others.

In my last week’s column I did not mention some of the other leading schools that produced crowd drawing cricketers. Here goes – L.R. Gunetilleke, Russel Hamer and Amresh Rajaratnam (Wesley), Muttiah Devaraja, Ghulam Razick, Sylvester Dias and B.N.Mahmood –(Zahira)- T.B. Kehelgamuwa, Sonny Yatawara, Ananda Jayasundera, S.U. Mendis, Mahinda Pethiyagoda, Chamara Kapugedera (Dharmaraja).

Incidentally Kapugedera was an excellent right hand batsman who made big scores in school and club cricket that made the national cricket selectors plonk him into the national squad.

On a tour of the West Indies Kapugedera made a grand knock at the Trinidad and Tobago Oval where some of the great West Indian batsmen were present and they watched in awe his masterly batting.

I was present there covering the Sri Lanka team’s tour for the ‘Daily News’ and ‘Sunday Observer’ and when asked the Windies greats told me that he is a batsman of class with the right temperament, technique and excellent strokes and should be a permanent fixture in the Sri Lanka squad.

But calamity struck Kapugedera after a successful run in the national team when he ran into turbulence with poor scores and the selectors of that time, unlike they did with other cricketers who fail dropped Kapugedera and he went off the radar. Great talent wasted.

In the Kandy circuit there were Nihal Samarasekera, Malcom Perera, Ishak Shabdeen, Tony Dirckze, Foumy and Hilmi Marikar of (St Sylvester’s) sons of the best outstanding all round sportsman produced from that school M.E. Marikar who was unfortunate not to win national colours in cricket, football and boxing.

Kingswood had the famous Owen Mottau in cricket and rugby,H.Perusinghe, Herbie Jayasuriya, Ajit Gannoruwa and Clifford Ratnabuvshana. Vidyatha had R.M. Lafir and C.K. Gajanayake.

One also can’t forget the eye catching talent that emerged from Jaffna but could not bloom and blossom because of the war. Sathidevan Devendra, Thievendren, Sivendra, Sothlingam, Suriyakumar, Gangederan, Sureshkumar who played for the national schools, Kanananyagam, Ganeshkumar, Naguleswaran, Anton Benedict, Nadarajasunderam and many others who do not come to mind.

In going down memory lane to find these names my thanks go out to the famous Neil Wijeratne, Hafiz Marikar and the great Nimal Lewke who helped me out.

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