Being drawn to Cricket … at Royal College and BeyondApril 13, 2016
In the early sixties my attention shifted to the S.S.C. where I was coached by Bertie Wijesinghe between 1960 and 1962. I walked from Gregory’s Avenue, past the meteorological Station, across the former landing strip, past the old SSC scoreboard where I curiously gazed at courting couples who were in cars parked behind the old scoreboard. About this time I witnessed Sahabandu being hit for a straight six and I told myself that he would never make it as a fast bowler. Not soon after he changed to slow medium and his career took off.
Dramatic end to Oz-Windies Test match= Pic from www.espncricinfo.com
While I was holidaying in Kandy in December 1960, I was informed that the first test between Australia and the West Indies had ended in a tie. At first I couldn’t tell the difference between a tie and a draw. (To me a game that neither side won was a draw and nothing else. Similar confusion reigned initially amongst the West Indian and Australian players who couldn’t conceive of a game in which four innings were completed fell without there being winners.) However, this became the most frequent topic of conversation and I soon understood the significance of the event. In 1961 I returned to a school that was mesmerised by the feats of the West Indians. This cricket mania at school continued for over a year and took in Darrell Lieversz’s season as captain in 1962.
The emotions generated by Melbourne’s emotional ticker tape parade for the West Indian cricketers had hardly subsided when the equally poignant Bandaranaike Assassination Trial commenced on February 22nd. By a strange quirk of fate my uncle, now President of the Colts, was chosen to be foreman of the jury. Bander’s ghost, first confronted by a member of the Lieversz family at the Merchant’s Ward in 1959 was still casting its spell over the family.
Cricket based excitement at Royal was spread over 1961. My cousin Darrell’s bowling, Australia’s successful tour of England, and the under XIV Royal-Thomian at Mt. Lavinia, which was the talking point at my cousin’s residence at Brownrigg Road, were the main features and events. Royal beat St. Thomas’ by two wickets in the last over. Captain S.P. Sellayah who scored an unbeaten 56, shared a partnership with Jumbo Ferenando (33) to rescue Royal, while Brian Lieversz scored the winning run. For a 13-year-old this was an event of epochal proportions and Brian made sure that the whole neighbourhood knew about his exploit.
However, I must confess that my loyalty to kin and school, and to “ethnic” Australians such as Benaud, O’Neill, McKay, McKenzie, Mcdonald et al., occasionally clashed. On the afternoon of 13th October 1961 I traveled down Buller’s Road (since renamed Bauddhaloka Mawatha) in a double-decker bus in the direction of Borella along with a group school mates. I shocked all and sundry, particularly Ajith. R. Fernando, by disembarking at Gregory’s Avenue in order to play imaginary test cricket by throwing a ball against the wall, in preference to attending the heats of the Public Schools Athletic Competition. (My cousin Darrell won the 440 and 220 yards events the next day, breaking the 23 seconds barrier in the latter event.)
In 1961 I unsuccessfully tried out for the Boake under XIV team: no dishonour because Boake won the competition. Far more humiliating was my failure to make the 2D class cricket team hardly the creme de la creme of available cricketing talent. This perfectly illustrated the importance of self-promotion, the power of cliques and how influence still flowed along race lines. As a sop I joined others whose mother tongue was deemed to be English, in setting up the 2D second XI. I still held my head up high because my cousin was leading Royal’s bowling attack and running for Royal, Australia won one of the sweetest victories over England at Manchester against the run of play, and the King looked set to dominate the decade following the success of the film G.I. Blues and songs like “Are you lonesome tonight” and “Little Sister”.
In 1962 I made it into the Boake House under 14 team and then went on to open the batting for Royal. My representative career had commenced and I began to come out of my shell.
If one were to visit the NCC and the SCC and take a look at the team photos on the wall it becomes obvious that teams like the Colts were never going to be Sara Trophy contenders in the fifties when the N.C.C. won it five times, or any time after, until the nineties. In fact, the SSC won it so often that it virtually owned it. The strength of the SSC team is reflected in the 1947-48 final which was between two S.S.C. teams, one led by F.C. de Saram and the other by Sargo Jayawickrema. But in the early sixties Colts came to within .02 points of taking the Sara trophy. And this is the moment I became a Colts convert and a Colt diehard for the rest of my life.