Mick Verney a true friend of Sri Lanka cricket | Daily News
‘He did self human service not in anticipation of anything’:

Mick Verney a true friend of Sri Lanka cricket

Mick Verney
Mick Verney

The cricket world especially Sri Lanka will be saddened to hear the news that Mick Verney has passed away at the age of 92 at his hometown in Woking, Surrey.

Mick was in Sri Lanka in February where he stopped over en route to Australia to visit his two daughters and son and, on his return he was hoping to stay back and watch the English Test series which unfortunately was postponed.

Returning to the UK he fell ill suffering from a bout of pneumonia but recovered. Unfortunately for him he had taken a fall soon afterwards and broken his hip bone and, while on the way to surgery had passed away.

Mick will be remembered by many as a true friend of Sri Lanka cricket for the numerous cricketers he had helped shape their careers in their initial stages by finding them opportunities to play for club sides in the Surrey League.

As former Sri Lanka fast bowler Graeme Labrooy, one of the recipients of Mick’s generosity described: “We played in the club as amateurs and did not have much money. Mick helped us by putting us up at his residence. He looked after us and at times he even drove us to the matches.”

“I got used to bowl under wet and cold conditions and the experience definitely helped me in the early stages of my career,” said Labrooy.

Mick got involved in the sponsorship of Sri Lankan schoolboys in the mid-eighties when he came to Sri Lanka with the junior cricket team from Berkshire which was sponsored by Kumar Boralessa, a stalwart of CCC (Colombo Cricket Club).

Boralessa describing the tour said: “The team played matches in Colombo, Kandy, Matara, Galle and Moratuwa and at the end of the tour Mick did a very analytical report praising Sri Lanka’s standard of cricket at junior level. He picked two players who caught his eye namely Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, both ended up playing in the under 19 team World Cup in Australia. What came after that is history.


“From then on Mick and I became close friends. He would visit Sri Lanka during the winter and was a known feature in our family circles. He then went on to help numerous players from CCC to play for clubs in the Surrey County circuit. Kapila Wijjegunawardene was the first then Graeme Labrooy, Roshan Jurangpathy, Manoj Mendis, Saman Kandegedara, Rukshan Soza and a host of young Lankan cricketers. His second home was Sri Lanka. He was a wonderful gentleman with a tremendous passion for cricket and Sri Lanka.”

KM Nelson, another CCC stalwart who handled the Berkshire tour when Boralessa had to go overseas on business said, “This man has done a hell of a lot for Sri Lanka. He has helped nearly one hundred schoolboys to gain experience playing in English conditions by sponsoring them. You can write volumes about him.”

Nelson went onto describe how Mick had generously sponsored his sons Ritchie and Dennis in their studies in the UK and also Saman Kandegedara, a leg-break bowler whom Mick was impressed with and sponsored him to the UK from where he progressed to settle down in Australia with his entire family.

Former Sri Lanka fast bowler Kappila Wijegunawardene described Mick as ‘one of the most generous people who had helped Sri Lanka cricket more than anybody else’.

“Actually he has gone out of our way to help Sri Lankans and cricketers. He gained nothing out of it personally but did a service to people who were recipients of his generosity. He had a passion for cricket, and he has done yeoman service for the country. He did self human service not in anticipation of anything,” said Wijegunawardene.

“Cricket brought Mick in contact with Sri Lanka and he loved the country. He wanted to come and settle down here given the opportunity. He fell in love with our culture and the people especially and he used to come and stay at our homes whenever he came to Sri Lanka.

“He sponsored all the cricketers, found them food and shelter and clubs to play for. When I joined Maharajas I was playing for CCC. Maharajas wanted us to train at the Lord’s School of Cricket and after the training Mick hosted us and we played a season in the Surrey League. Like that he has helped a lot of people in Sri Lanka,” Wijegunawardene said.

Surrey County CC in an appreciation said: “Mick was a passionate supporter of cricket in the county. He served as chairman of the Surrey Schools Cricket Association between 1973 and 1985 and again from 1995 to 1997. Nationally he was a member of the Executive of the English Schools’ Cricket Association from 1974-88, acting chairman in 1987 and also served as the South Region national selector for the U15 side from 1970-84. Ever passionate about schools’ cricket and State schools in particular, Mick was still able to make his own way from Woking to The Kia Oval for the annual Hobbs Trophy match in 2019, his 91st year. He had been very much looking forward to what should have been the 50th Hobbs Trophy match earlier this month.”

Mick’s death is a sad loss for all those who knew him. He will be missed but not forgotten.


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