Anura de Silva - the sad demise of a brilliant all-round cricketer: He could have been the Garfield Sobers of Sri Lanka – Nelson Mendis | Daily News

Anura de Silva - the sad demise of a brilliant all-round cricketer: He could have been the Garfield Sobers of Sri Lanka – Nelson Mendis

Anura de Silva  former captain of Nalanda College


 During the pre-Test era Sri Lanka produced some wonderful cricketers who could easily have gone and represented the country with distinction in Test and One-day cricket.

As a result of Sri Lanka then being an associate member of the ICC the talents of these marvelous personalities were confined to school cricket and unofficial matches against visiting sides which were few and far between.

One such outstanding talent was Anura de Silva, who captained Nalanda College in the late sixties and made a name for himself in the schools’ circuit as one of the finest all-round cricketers to emerge from that institution that has produced so many national players who had gone onto represent the country with greatness after De Silva.

De Silva passed away on Sunday at the age of 67 at his hometown in Ambalangoda after battling two years with cancer. His funeral took place in Ambalangoda yesterday.

De Silva was a multi-talented sportsman who could shine in any sport. He excelled at cricket, athletics and soccer and according to some of his contemporaries he was also a good cyclist winning several races for his school by just picking up any bike that was available and riding it to victory.

At Nalanda College, De Silva was an emperor in his own right. Stockily built he was a dashing right-hand batsman and left-arm bowler in addition to being a brilliant fielder in any position.

One of his many great knocks for Nalanda that are etched in the memory of his team mates and those who saw him at his peak was the 99 he scored in the ‘Big Match’ against traditional rivals Ananda College in 1967, The following year when he captained his school, Nalanda became the best schools team in the island and De Silva was picked the schoolboy cricketer of the year as well as the best batsman. He scored five centuries that season against St Anthony’s Katugastota, Thurstan, Mahinda, Dharmapala and Prince of Wales equalling Antonian Jack Anderson’s record of five centuries in a season. He topped 1000 runs out of the 10 matches the school played.

That year he was in such fine form that he also picked up 75 wickets with his left-arm spin. The following year De Silva won the best bowlers’ award. Midway during the 1969 season De Silva was asked to take over the captaincy from Laxman Doolwella under whom Nalanda was not faring well.

“Anura was one of the most talented cricketers I’ve ever seen. He could easily have played for his country if he concentrated more on the game,” said Lalith Kaluperuma who played for Nalanda under De Silva’s captaincy in 1968. “A brilliant right-hand bat and left-arm spinner he was a versatile all-round sportsman who also excelled in soccer and athletics. He was more concentrated on following a business line like his father and played only two or three seasons of Sara trophy cricket with SSC. It’s very unfortunate to hear of his demise.”

Kaluperuma one of the leading off-spinners produced by Sri Lanka was fortunate enough to play Test cricket for his country. Along with him some of the other notable cricketers who played in the team captained by De Silva were Keerthi Ranasinghe who played in 4 ODIs in the late eighties and Eastman Narangoda, a former SLC cricket official.

De Silva’s extraordinary talents caught the attention of SSC, a club which at that time was exclusively for schoolboy cricketers from Royal and S. Thomas’ ML.

Nelson Mendis his school coach recalled that De Silva made a century on his Sara trophy debut for SSC against Tamil Union and was an automatic choice to play in the much looked forward to fixture for the season between SSC and arch rivals NCC the following week.

“FC de Saram who was the SSC coach and a strict disciplinarian didn’t want any of his players to attend the SSC dinner dance held the day before the crucial match. But Anura ignored the request and went ahead. The next day when he turned up for the match to his surprise he found that his name was in the team list as twelfth man. There was some harsh words exchanged between Anura and FC and that was the end of his career with SSC,” recalled Mendis.

“If not for his indiscipline he could have easily ended up as the Garfield Sobers of Sri Lanka. He was to me the best cricketer produced by Nalanda, a brilliant right-hand batsman he could bowl in three varieties of left-arm fast, cutters and spin. He bestrode school cricket like a colossus and the very mention of his name scared the wits out of several opposing school teams.”

De Silva, fourth in a family of eleven was born to one of the richest families in Ambalangoda. His father was a leading building contractor in Ambalangoda and after his cricket career was over concentrated on carrying on his family business.

Several say that he ruined his career by getting into bad company that saw him led astray and eventually lose everything he had. To describe his career in a nutshell he withered in the wilderness.

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