Putting the pre-Test era into perspective | Daily News

Putting the pre-Test era into perspective

Passionately Cricket by Anura Tennekoon

Publisher: Stamford Lake (Pvt) Ltd., paperback, 145 pages, Rs. 950

From the time Sri Lanka were granted Test status all the matches played by the country to-date has been well documented in newspaper reports, by literature and through television and websites. However there has been a crying need for someone to recall how Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was then known) played its cricket during the pre-Test era.

To a large extent former Sri Lanka captain Anura Tennekoon has taken the trouble to put pen to paper and come out with a publication titled ‘Passionately Cricket’ that talks about the era where cricketers played the game for the sheer love of it and not for any monetary gains.

Just like the many innings he has played in the middle Tennekoon has painstakingly taken the trouble to reflect to the reader the hardships the cricketers of his era underwent to eventually lay a solid foundation for cricket in Sri Lanka for what it is today.

To give a good example of the times here is a quote from the book:

“On tours to India and Pakistan more often than not we had to travel by train from one venue to another. These train journeys at times took two days with a night spent on the train. It was difficult to get a good night’s sleep due to the incessant noise of the sound of the wheels on the track and also the rocking and rolling of the compartments. We were also surprised to find the host team travel by air and in a better condition to play cricket.”

Another example:

“We also faced the hardship of having very little spending money as we were allowed only the equivalent of 3 pounds 10 shillings on these tours. Therefore we had to manage with biscuits and oranges on these train journeys as other foods such as chapathies and roti with accompanying curries were unreliable for consumption.”

Unlike the cricketers of today the cricketers of Tennekoon’s era 1966-1979 travelled by public transport for practices and matches.

These cricketers sacrificed a lot to lay a good foundation for our cricket today.

Not only had our cricketers of yesteryear undergone many hardships but they also had to put up with poor umpiring. “In India and Pakistan you not only play against the opposition but have to cope with poor umpiring and unruly crowd behaviour,” says Tennekoon.

In the unofficial test played at Nagpur against India in 1975, Tennekoon nearing his century was on 97 and this is what happened: “I was sorry to miss a century as a loud firecracker exploded just before I negotiated a delivery which upset my concentration and was bowled.” Tennekoon relates many stories like this from the time he played for S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia, SSC, Ceylon Tobacco and Sri Lanka in the publication which is adorned with carefully selected black and white photographs and full scorecards of the unofficial tests played by him.

The foreword to the book is written by another former Sri Lanka captain Ranjan Madugalle who started his international career under Tennekoon’s leadership, with comments on the publication from two other former Sri Lanka captains Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

Towards the end of the book one is left with an emptiness that Tennekoon has plenty more to relate.....perhaps in his next publication. One hopes that the lead taken by Tennekoon inspires other past cricketers of the pre-Test era to put their thoughts into print as there is a big void to fill in Sri Lanka’s cricket history from the time they became associate members of the ICC in 1965 till full members in 1981.

This book should be essentially read by the cricketers of today and of tomorrow to understand what sacrifices those who played before them made, to make life comfortable for them today.

It’s a must read and can be obtained in English and Sinhala versions from Vijitha Yapa bookshop, Sarasavi bookshop and other leading book stores.

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