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Those Heady Days: Academic Excellence paired with Cricketing Excellence

April 17, 2016

Eardley Lieversz, reflecting on the University of Ceylon’s Triumph in the Sara Trophy in the 1962/63 Season in an essay entitled “The Social Make-Up of the Varsity Team”

Until the late sixties, playing sport, particularly cricket, was not incompatible with academic achievement, particularly in the hard sciences. Non arts students came from Colombo schools and from English speaking backgrounds. For instance, the Royal cricket team of 1969 produced four engineers and a doctor.  One image which never left me was a twice Royal captain pulling out his study notes after being dismissed in the game against St. Sebastian’s in the third term (1968).

University-1962

In 2013 the Island of 18 March 2013 covered the reunion of the University of Ceylon cricket team of 1962-3 which took out the Sara trophy of that year.  The full article is available in appendix IV.  I quote the first four paragraphs of the article.

“Former members of the University of Ceylon ‘62/63 will gather at the NCC on the morning of March 23 to celebrate their winning the Sara Trophy 50 years ago. Their feat has never been achieved by any other university team. In spite of the heavy burden of studies, they had to contend with, they were able to excel in their chosen sport to win the Sara Trophy in the 1962/63 season. The team consisted of a very talented group of youngsters who were not at all overawed by the might of the opposition, sporting All Ceylon players of that era. They, in their youthful exuberance, overcame all odds in capturing the title. Their conduct off the field was exemplary. They were gentlemen to the core in their behaviour.

Many of them were also accomplished musicians. All these cricketers, without exception have reached the pinnacle of their chosen careers as doctors, engineers, architects, civil servants and veterinarians, both locally and abroad.

The year 1962 saw the coming together of a number of very talented students from various schools in Ceylon of that era to be members of a fantastic cricket team to represent the University of Ceylon in cricket in the local premier tournament, vying for the Saravanamuthu Trophy. These young students of that era, mainly from the Colombo schools, entered university, after passing the very competitive university entrance exam of the era.

The team was skippered by Carlyle Perera, a Josephian, a no nonsense leader and a fourth year medico at that time. He was a hugely talented batsman with an astute cricketing brain and the incredible skills of man management to extract the best efforts from his team members. His deputy was a Thomian – Buddy Reid, another fourth year medico, who was a great cricketer with a never say die attitude and possessing true Thomian grit.”

The other members of the team were – Mano Ponniah, Nihal Gurusinghe, Lareef Idroos, U.R.P. Goonetilleke (STC), N.J.S. De Mel, Harsha Samerajiva, K. Wimalaratne, Nanda Senanayake (Royal), Cyril Ernest (SBC), Mohanlal Fernando (Ananda), V. Sivanandan (St. John’s Jaffna), Kingsley Fernando (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa), and Merril Guneratne, Adiel Anghie (St. Peter’s).

The University had a good all round team consisting mainly of Royalists and Thomians, with a few Peterites, Josephians, Benedictines, Anandians and St. Sebastianites thrown in.  The Colts had Royalist Darrell Lieversz, who, with the sort of support the University captain received from his team, would have won the day for the Colts.  Even then, University just scraped through.

The Varsity team was considered young compared to the average of players in the teams they played against.  However, Darrell Lieversz at 19 years was probably the youngest in either side.

The two batsmen who survived the Colts bowling onslaught in the final innings of the game, Reid and Gurusinghe, were both Thomians. N.J.S. de Mel, who top scored in both Varsity innings, was a Royalist.  Darrell was single handedly trying to overcome Thomians backed by fellow Royalists.  And twice in two years, at the Oval and at Havelock Park, the Thomians survived.

(In the game against the S.S.C. it was Darrell versus fellow Royalists.  S.S.C. had Kodituwakku, L. Senanayake, S.C. Samarasinghe and C.I. Gunasekera.)

The weather and umpiring conspired to thwart the Colts.  And as a result the reputation of Dr. Carlyle Perera, the University captain, has acquired legendary proportions.  But if the Colts had captured one more wicket, he would have been consigned to the dustbin of history. He was featured in a Sunday Times article of July 11, 2010, penned by Maxie Kariyawasam which is carried in full at appendix V.

The University met the Colts in the final and a victory for either team would have been their first.  It turned out to be the first and only premier trophy win for the University which doesn’t field a cricket team these days, and this has probably a lot to do with the socio-linguistic background of students in the hard sciences today.  The changing of the medium of instruction in Sri Lanka from English to Sinhalese has finally taken its toll.

Ironically, while the University doesn’t field a cricket team, the majority of Sri Lanka’s leading cricketers now come rural areas and presumably are of Sinhalese speaking backgrounds. Could it be that, unlike the science students of yesteryear, who were both sportsmen and scholars, the bright students of today, urban or rural, from Colombo or the outstations, find it hard to combine study with sport, and are either sportsmen or studious.

The fifties and sixties were a quieter time and the life style slower paced. Even those who were studiously inclined learnt sport in their youth and obtained a passion for it. Hence, those schoolboys who were good at maths and science had a tendency, while studying hard for their “A” levels, to pursue their sporting interests.

I was speaking to two doctors who were my class mate at school. One of them was a talented hockey player at both school and university. They both said that in the sixties it was hard to combine sports at the top level with academic achievement in the hard sciences. Hence, quite a few Royalists and Thomians who led the school at either cricket or rugby, focused on entering university after leaving school.  This was certainly the case with those wishing to pursue a medical career where the bar was higher than for other professions.

One had two chances at the “O” level in getting the five credits required to enter the science class. And one had only one shot, out of three, at the “A” level, from school, if one sat for the “O” level twice.  Clever students usually left school a year earlier than their sporting peers, and often this involved forfeiting the captaincy.  The students who went on to become doctors and engineers after completing their school cricketing career, studied the appropriate subjects at school and this held them in good stead when they attempted to get high “A” level grades after leaving school. And sports also interfered with undergraduate study.  For instance, a former Thomian cricket captain who was older than his colleagues at medical school was involved in numerous sports and as a result he kept failing his exams.

But as pointed out to me by a former Royal cricket captain, it is much more competitive to get into our universities today, at least for the sciences, due to the spread of free education. And cricket too has become more professional. Hence, an ambitious student will find it difficult to do sports and studies and is not prepared to delay his career in order to shine in school sport.  Also, a cricketer with good academic ability and with good English skills and the money, may prefer to study overseas which means that he is lost to the local university.  In the sixties and seventies, students usually did their first degree in a Sri Lankan university and only went overseas to do post graduate study.

APPENDIX :  SECTION FROM NEWS ITEM

The team was skippered by Carlyle Perera, a Josephian, a no nonsense leader and a fourth year medico at that time. He was a hugely talented batsman with an astute cricketing brain and the incredible skills of man management to extract the best efforts from his team members. His deputy was a Thomian – Buddy Reid, another fourth year medico, who was a great cricketer with a never say die attitude and possessing true Thomian grit.

The other members were:

Mano Ponniah –Thomian – Opening bat and superb fielder in the covers. Engineerin student.

NJS de Mel – Royalist – Diminutive and dashing opening bat with no respect for reputations of the opponents.

Nihal Gurusinghe – Thomian – Tall and elegant and attractive batsman to watch when set. Smart in the slips. Medico.

Lareef Idroos – Thomian – A great all-rounder. Leading leg spinner of the era, sound batsman and an excellent slip fielder. – Medico.

Cyril Ernest – Benedictine – Another great all-rounder – Lethal off spinner, dashing bat and a brilliant close in fielder. – Medico.

Mohanlal Fernando – Anandian – All-rounder – Opening bowler with excellent control of swing; middle order batsman and fantastic fielder in close, in and in the deep.

Sivanandan – The only outstation schoolboy cricketer in the team – from St. John’s, Jaffna. A fabulous wicket keeper and lower order batsman – Veterinarian.

Harsha Samarajiva – Royalist – Opening bowler, with a vicious well concealed bouncer who intimidated many an opposing batsman. Lower order bat. Close in fielder. Medico.

URP Goonetilleke – Thomian – A solid opening bat; fielded in the covers and also bowled medium pace cutters when needed. Medico.

Wimalaratne – Royalist – A stubborn batsman and a medium pace bowler. Fielded in the outfield.

Nanda Senanayake – Royalist – Superb allrounder – middle order bat, off spinner and a great fielder in the covers. Physical Science student.

Kingsley Fernando – St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa. A dashing bat, leg spinner and excellent fielder close in fielder. Engineering.

Merril Guneratne – St. Peter’s College – Left arm medium pace swing bowler with excellent control of line and length. Fielded in the mid-on and mid-off positions. Underrated batsman who sold his wicket very early. The only student from the Arts Faculty.

Adiel Anghie – Peterite – Reserve wicket keeper. Solid Middle order bat. Medico.

Unselfishness and team camaraderie were the foremost attributes instilled into the minds by their leader, Carlyle Perera. This did pay dividends. It must also be mentioned that in the following season, the university were runners-up to Bloomfield and lost by the barest of margins of 0.04 points due to one missed catch. Well, that’s cricket. The team has since lost some of their members, and the surviving members of the champion team are back in Sri Lanka to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of winning the championship and they will be celebrating at a couple of events in a resort hotel down South, and at the NCC, at a reception for the team.

It has to be noted that six members of that great team subsequently played in representative Ceylon sides – Buddy Reid (also played for Ceylon in Table Tennis), Mano Ponniah (also played for Cambridge, England.), Nihal Gurusinghe, Lareef Idroos (also played for USA), Cyril Ernest (also played for the USA and in the World Cup -Birmingham, England) and V. Sivanandan.

Where are they now?

Carlyle Perera – Melbourne, Australia. Consultant Psychiatrist.

Buddy Reid – Melbourne, Australia. Consultant Surgeon.

Nihal Gurusinghe – Tepuke, New Zealand. Consultant Internist.

Mano Ponniah – Back home in Colombo. Renowned Architect.

Lareef Idroos – Los Angeles, USA. Consultant Nephrologist. Retired professor UCLA.

Cyril Ernest -Lancaster, California. USA. Consultant Cardiologist.

Harsha Samarajiva – Back home in Colombo. Much sought after Internist.

Mohanlal Fernando – Wales. Retired Rheumatologist and specialist in Sports Medicine.

Sivanandan – Resides in Malaysia. Emeritus Professor in Veterinary Sciences, University of Minnesota.

Kingsley Fernando – Colombo. Retired Chief Engineer, Colombo.

Nanda Senanayake – Colombo.

Adiel Anghie – Virginia, USA. Retired Consultant Pulmonologist.

Merril Guneratne – Colombo. Retired DIG.

Unfortunately, NJS de Mel, K. Wimalaratne and URP Goonetilleke are not with us anymore. NJS was an executive at Ceylon Tobacco. He died in Sri Lanka. K. Wimalaratne, a consultant Cardiologist tragically drowned in California, while URP Goonetilleke, a Consultant Pathologist died in England.

Mohanlal Fernando represented Wales at tennis. Buddy Reid represented Australia in the Masters Table Tennis International tourney and Cyril Ernest achieved the distinction of gaining his Black Belt in Tae Kwondo [an also played for USA in Cricket at the World cup in UK.

All of them were university students first, though they were in the limelight due to their sporting abilities and that studies did supersede sports. For those representing the country today in various sports, the members of the ‘62-63 team are an example. It would be pertinent to mention that they were able to combine the two. Some of them represented the university in cricket, but other sports as well.

Buddy Reid – Cricket and Table Tennis

Cyril Ernest – Cricket and Hockey

Mohanlal Fernando – Cricket and Badminton

Sivanandan – Cricket and Soccer.

URP Goonetilleke – Cricket and HockeY

Wimalaratne – Cricket and Hockey.

Nanda Senanayake – Cricket, Hockey and ?’


 

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