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Bertie; all-rounder of Ananda staffroom



At our monthly meeting of the Ananda Past Teachers in September this year, in our house, while having lunch, I asked Bertie whether there are people called past teachers. He said yes of course and that he is a past teacher and I am one too. But what I then went on to ask him was, had he really retired?

Even though Bertie was not teaching maths any more very often teachers and Old Boys would continue to consult him. This is because when he was in school, there was no important function in which Bertie had no hand. In addition to his classroom work he was the Prefect of Games, the Boarding House master and the Secretary of the Teachers’ Guild and much more. No boy was out of his ken. He touched everyone in the upper school. Col Rajapakse depended very heavily on his support. Indeed the school was very fortunate to have him. The entire Big Match operation revolved round him. Everyone knows the varied tasks that go into the match and the funds that are involved. He would execute all tasks with such transparency and care that there was no unhappiness in the aftermath. He would do the match year in and year out with such aplomb. Indeed all sports activities found in him a true gentleman. He loved the game of cricket and played on week-ends. In addition he commanded the Cadet Corps, the training ground for many a general and war hero. We have seen how these generals, when they meet him forget their ranks and bow down to him.

He also ran the Boarding House on a tight schedule. He would brook no nonsense and woe unto the law breakers!. Even the junior staff were regimented and did not fall out of line. The minor staff found in him a strict but understanding master.

Prize Givings at Ananda were events of remarkable significance with very important guests attending. Bertie knew all of them and how on behalf of the school, to greet them.

As Secretary of the Teachers’ Guild, he would see the staff were in at the meeting. He would organise the annual trip and the annual dinner with such class and distinction that there was no one else who would dare to handle it after him.

Of course when Kumi came (she came with the blessings of Ananda, for Mr Rajapakse may have had a hand in the union) Bertie’s attention was divided but Kumi had to fight hard with Ananda, nevertheless.

Bertie was then called for work in the private sector where the staff looked up to him.

It is true Bertie left Ananda but did Ananda leave Bertie? Ask the numerous Old Boys who continually invited him for Old Boy functions and gatherings. Bertie was obliging and there at all these functions. The respect they had for their teacher continued to guide their relationships. Bertie would always maintain his dignity before them. When Old Boys came from overseas the first point of reference would of course be Bertie. There were instances when as a past teacher he helped the school events. The current teachers valued his advice.

In the early 90s D.L.B. Perera, a former Headmaster wanted to gather some of the former teachers together to renew acquaintance with them. Several teachers met and one of them was Bertie. As time passed DLB’s idea grew into what is now The Past Teachers’ Association. At that time no other school had their past teachers meeting. Bertie, the organiser he was, gave the meeting a structure and form. He it was who proposed that we should meet monthly in a member’s house rather than in the school. He saw that some fellowship should accompany the meetings and the school premises were improper. He proposed we award scholarships to poor children who had no hope of having an Ananda education. He went to far places in his car to look for suitable candidates and the Association was able to find funds for the project. Even today there are boys in the University sponsored by the Association. Many Old Boys contributed willingly to these projects.

In 2016 the Association celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Bertie who had been president for several years was elected to organise the function. All were proud of the event with good food and good fellowship.

Bertie was friendly to all but at the meetings he would query anything he thought was not accurate. He was a stickler for proper minutes and for follow-up of work. Many teachers thought he was critical of them but it was his army and Richmond training which wanted everything in order and to rule.

All that is left now it to be thankful to him for undertaking so much on behalf of all of us. We are thankful that he lived a full life and left us with such strong memories that nothing could deter his memory from our midst.

Upali Rathnayake

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Sri Lanka seek results after hard work  



by Rex Clementine  

Sri Lanka have competed well in patches in their recent outings in Test match cricket, but they have lacked the killer blow instinct. Too often we have seen, Mickey Arthur’s side doing all the hard work in a game and spoiling that all – often in a session. A dramatic collapse, dropped catches, poor reviews, injuries or lackluster bowling have hurt the team. The main issue they need to address is that lack of application by batsmen who have thrown it away with some brainless cricket.

There’s a selection dilemma with former skipper Angelo Mathews returning to the side after missing the West Indies Tests due to personal reasons. Pathum Nissanka, who came in for his place, grabbed the opportunity from both hands with a hundred on debut. He became the first Sri Lankan to score a Test hundred in his maiden Test away from home.

It remains to be seen whom the selectors will leave out.  It could be Oshada Fernando with Nissanka swapping places for the number three slot. Or it could be Niroshan Dickwella, from whom wicketkeeping gloves could be taken away and given to Dinesh Chandimal.

The move has been something that has been discussed for a while now but since being put under pressure, Dickwella has not only contributed with the bat but shown more responsibility as well. The first Test match against Bangladesh gets underway on Wednesday in a bio secure bubble. Expect a bit of rain during the series, particularly in the evenings as it is always the case in the hill capital. Well, we were actually told when the ground was built that it was located in one of the driest areas in the Central Province. Very little the press realized that we were being taken for a ride. And of course the venue is located in the electorate of the then Sports Minister.

Bangladesh need to raise their game in this series after a disappointing few months at home. That they will not have the services of Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman is a further blow for them.

Pallekele will host both Tests and could be a major hub throughout this year when limited over games take place in ‘bio bubble’ environment.

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Sri Lanka back pace for Bangladesh Tests



by Rex Clementine

Having conducted the England Test series so well in a ‘bio-secure bubble’ in Galle, Sri Lanka Cricket has decided to move the Bangladesh series to Pallekele. Did any technical reasons prompt SLC to move from the coastal town to the hill capital?  Not really. The move is a tactical one. The Sri Lankans would be thinking that spin is Bangladesh’s strength so the best way to beat them is through pace. Hence, the shift to Kandy where seamers get much more purchase and value for money for their efforts.

The move may look somewhat defensive. Given the England experience where the Somerset duo of Dom Bess and Jack Leach made a mockery of Sri Lanka’s top and middle order, the hosts seem to be not wanting to play into Bangladesh’s hands whose spinners have been quite formidable in recent years.

Hence having shifted base to Kandy, Sri Lanka could go all out with a  pace heavy attack when the Test series gets underway next week. Wanindu Hasaranga could be the only spinner in the side with Dhananjaya de Silva’s part time off-spin as back up.

Lahiru Kumara has returned to the squad having missed the West Indies tour after being tested positive for COVID-19. There was a lot of excitement that Sri Lanka would be able to see two of their quickest bowlers in action in the same match but Dushmantha Chameera, has pulled out from the series due to personal reasons.

Suranga Lakmal, who was named Player of the Series in the Caribbean after his impressive performance, will spearhead the attack. Vishwa Fernando will add variety with his left arm bowling and it remains to be seen how well he does in helpful conditions having fared well in South Africa early this year.

There are a few issues with the spin department after Lasith Embuldeniya was ruled out with injury. Duvindu Tillekeratne is also down with injury while Prabath Jayasuriya, who had shown la ot of promise was almost picked for the series but he became ineligible for selection after failing the skin fold test marginally. That opened up a slot for rookie Praveen Jayawickrama who is thin on experience having played just a handful of First Class matches

Bangaldesh will be handicapped as Shakib Al Hasan their biggest match winner is in India playing the IPL. They will also miss the services of Mustafizur Rahman, the spearhead of the attack.

Still, the tourists have some solid players. Off-spinner Mehidy Hasan recently became the fastest Bangladeshi to claim 100 Test wickets and at the age of 23 a  lot is expected of him.  He is more than a  handy bat having already posted a hundred and three half-centuries in Test match cricket.

Tamim Iqbal, Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim are the mainstay of their batting. Mushfiqur has been ever present in the Bangladeshi side having made his Test debut 16 years ago at the age of 18.

Former captain Angelo Mathews is back in the side having returned home from the West Indies early. Which of the seven batters will miss out to accommodate Mathews remains to be seen.

Sri Lanka have won 16 of the 20 Tests against Bangladesh and lost just one game. However, most of those wins were in the early days and in recent years Bangladesh have done well competing and drawing games. 

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Sebs’ cricket stalwart Cooray retires after more than three decades of service



by Reemus Fernando

Franklyn Cooray, the former Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association official, retired as the Master in Charge of Cricket of St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa after completing more than three and half decades of yeoman service recently. Franklyn Cooray who was popular in cricket circles as Frank Cooray, was the longest serving team official at the time of his retirement. During his 37 year association with schools cricket, Cooray witnessed the evolution of First XI cricket from mere Traditional matches to present day tournaments of varying divisions and was involved in St. Sebastian’s cricket as a coach and Master in Charge guiding the destiny of many future national cricketers.

Cooray played First XI cricket for St. Sebastian’s from 1962 to 1966 and was among the very few Sebs cricketers of his era to have tasted Big Match success. He captained all age group teams of St. Sebastian’s. After leaving school he worked at the Irrigation Department as a Senior Technical Officer and played in the Government Services ‘A’ Division Cricket tournament until making a premature retirement in 1983.

He was entrusted with the responsibility of training cricketers of St. Sebastian’s in 1984 by Rev. Bro. Nimal Gurusinghe, when coaching was voluntary. Three years later Cooray was included in the tutorial staff by Rev. Bro. Granville Perera. He was the coach cum Master in Charge of St. Sebastian’s from 1987 to 1994 and held the latter position until his retirement this year.

During his tenure as a coach, Cooray provided guidance at different levels to several Sebs who later became household names. Of them Dulip Mendis, Roger Wijesuriya, Susil Fernando, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sajeewa de Silva went on to play Test cricket. “Kaluwitharana was coached by Brother Gurusinghe before he came under my supervision at senior level,” Cooray recalled in an interview with The Island.

Cooray was the Master in Charge of Cricket when the likes of Prasanna Jayawardena, Dinusha Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, Amila Aponso, Avishka Fernando and Oshada Fernando learnt their ABC of cricket at St. Sebastian’s.

While being the MIC, Cooray was also entrusted with the responsibility of the curator after a turf wicket was laid at the St. Sebastian’s ground in 1990.

He was selected to SLSCA Executive Committee in 1988 and a year later became the Under-19 tournament secretary, a position he held until 2006. He was among the leading officials of SLSCA who were instrumental in introducing the two-day league tournament and the Under-19 tournament structure with three Divisions. As of late it has undergone many changes.

However he was against introducing the points system that determined winners on first innings points. “That system would promote the culture of playing for trophies. I never encouraged the point system for first innings wins. We gave points only for outright victories. During our time we hardly batted after tea. We would try to score as much as possible in the morning and declared and get the opposition to bat in the afternoon. That way we would try to win outright. That was lost after the points system was introduced,” opined Cooray.

Cooray also lamented the absence of natural stroke play among present day cricketers. “Players going for their natural strokes is something that we are missing greatly these days. You must encourage batsmen to go for their natural strokes,” said Cooray.

He was the Under-19 tournament secretary of the SLSCA at a time when computers were yet be utilized for calculation of points and to make points tables of the league tournaments. Yet as schools cricket reporters would recall he was readily available with a near accurate points table of the tournament at the end of every week during the schools cricket season.

Apart from holding the Under-19 tournament secretary position, Cooray also held the junior national coach position briefly. He was the coach of the Sri Lanka Under-15 side that toured England for the Under-15 Lombard World Challenge.

His contribution to cricket was recognized by the International Cricket Council in 2009 when he was presented with a medal during its Centenary Medals Presentation for Volunteers.

As he steps in to retirement with loads of fond memories from cricket, Cooray thanked former administrators of St. Sebastian’s Rev. Bro. Nimal Gurusinghe and Rev. Bro. Granville Perera, late Rev. Fr. Bonnie Fernandopulle who made it possible for him to take up coaching and cricket administration and coaches including Kanishka Perera who helped during his tenure.

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