Nostalgic memories of a Windies match in the sixties!


The news item ‘Windies arrive for five match series’ in The Island of 11 Feb, brought me nostalgic memories of a  hurriedly arranged one day match  for a star-studded side of Windies sailing back home from an Australian series, in the sixties. I was then attached to a British owned engineering company in Colombo. That was the time the Windies team was right on top and our cricket crazy fans were desperate to get them to play a one-day match at Colombo Oval, the only recognized ground we had then for international matches. The West Indies team was captained by the legendary Frank Worrel. They agreed to play on condition that we provided them a competent wicketkeeper to be behind the wicket for Wesley Hall. Then the automatic choice we had was none other than our Dr. H.I.K. Fernando.

Since the Windies team was not fully represented it was called ‘The Ceylon Daily Mirror XI’ and our Sri Lankan team was called ‘Ceylon Cricket Association’s President’s XI’ and it comprised of Michael Tissera, C.I .Gunasekera, Abu Fuad, D.H de Silva, Sarath Silva and others.

Sarath Silva was to open the innings for us. Since he and I worked for the same company I told him ‘Machan if you could score a respectable twenty or thirty runs, I will give you a good gift.’ When Wesley Hall started his run from the scoreboard end to bowl his first ball, with all his shirt buttons open the silver cross he was wearing, twitching in the bright sunlight in the background of his black muscular chest, it was really a sight to watch. I was wishing good luck for my dear friend, Sarath. The much feared ebony figure who terrorized all internationally reputed batsmen sent down the first ball with lightening speed and our HIK did not have much to do behind the wicket except putting the scattered stumps in order. This is not to say that my friend, Sarath was  a weak batsman but Hall was unplayable. The following day when I met Sarath in the company’s cafeteria I asked him ‘What happened?’ for which he responded by saying ‘I did not see the ball, Machan.’ I also remember the magnificent innings played by Garfield Sobers on that day. From the time he arrived at the crease the demand by the crowd was for a six. He duly responded by thumping a mighty six off F.B. Crozier’s off- spin bowling which fell on the middle of the adjoining tennis court.

Since the match was arranged in a hurry only a few of us did have the opportunity to follow the procedure to apply for leave in advance. In my case I stayed back by sending a sick note to my British boss, saying ‘Please excuse my absence from office since I am suffering from fever.’ When he passed this to the personnel department he never failed to add a prefix to the word ‘fever’ with ‘cricket’ thus reading ‘cricket fever’. However, I concede that was all in good humour. My boss too was a good sportsman being a very good football player having represented the company in mercantile tournaments and winning a few trophies for the company. Those were the days we never heard anything called ‘match fixing’ or ‘spot fixing’. So, cricket fans, now you have plenty of time to apply for your leave in advance to watch the exciting cricketers from the land of calypso. Good luck for our boys too!


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