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Learning honesty and integrity through cricket

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by Lalith Gunaratne

My father was a very easy-going person but led a very principled life.  When it came to honesty and integrity, he was right there on top even at the expense of his family. He mentioned these two traits often to his children. 

Talking about cricket, he once asked me and my brother, “If you hit a ball and it goes up to be caught by a fielder, what is your status?” 

“Out” 

If you snick a ball and know that you did and if the wicket keeper catches it, what’s your status?” 

” Out” 

“If so, why do you look at the umpire to tell you so?” 

He went on to say, “if you snick and get caught, you walk back to the pavilion without shamefully waiting for another man (umpire) to tell you that you are out”. 

Thanks to my father, I have never looked at the umpire after snicking a catch and am proud of it. 

Taking this a bit further, my father was the Advertising Manager of the Ceylon Observer at Lake House, the year I captained Ananda. He was an extremely popular figure among his colleagues and subordinates. 

I excelled this year as an all-rounder.  I scored heavily, bowled successfully, and fielded extremely well, holding over ten difficult catches in the gully and at short leg. I was also responsible for three direct hit run outs which were rare at that time. 

Ananda were unbeaten after more than 15 years (Ananda were unbeaten also in 1958 under Palitha Premasiri, but the final tally read at 12 matches played, 12 drawn).  We beat St. Thomas’ College, Wesley, and St. Benedict’s College and time deprived us of beating St. Peter’s College and Mahinda College, Galle. 

I captained the victorious Colombo North Schools Cricket Team in the Inter-zonal cricket tournament.  We beat Jaffna Schools in the final.  Jaffna Schools were giant killers the previous year, beating a star-studded Colombo South Schools Team in the Finals. 

I have also had the honor of being selected to captain the Ceylon School’s Cricket team for the Robert Senanayake Trophy tournament and against the Hyderabad Blues team that included Hanumant Singh and ML Jaisimha. 

My friend Anura de Silva of Nalanda was my vice-captain. 

During this time, the results of the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year results were coming out and was announced as follows: 

Best Batsman –

Lalith Gunaratna. 

Sunil Wettimuny the stylish opener was right behind me only because he had scored just a few runs less than what I had got. 

Best Bowler –

Anura de Silva 

Best Fielder –

Lalith Gunaratna 

Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year – Anura de Silva 

I was not too disappointed. Anura in my opinion was the complete cricketer.  That was the official end to my schoolboy cricket career. 

The day I received the much-awaited telegram from the Army stating that I was selected to be enlisted as an Officer Cadet, I went out with my father to buy some items that would be required at Diyatalawa. We stopped for lunch at Parkview Chinese Restaurant. 

While enjoying our lunch, my father dropped a mini bombshell.  He started by saying he has something especially important to tell me. 

He said that he had made a written appeal to his boss Ranapala Bodinagoda, Chairman of Associated Newspapers, and also spoken to him regarding the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year program. 

He had pleaded with Bodinagoda to speak to the selection panel and persuade them not to select me as the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year if my name came up to the final few.  He had a valid reason to sacrifice the glory his son would have achieved even for a short while.  I did not say a word but kept on listening to him. 

He said, “Son, I do not know how far my plea went and although in my mind you deserved it, we would not have been able to stop people from saying that you got the award because I was a manager at Sunday Observer and that I would have influenced the panel. 

Statistics fade away, but insinuations move from generation to generation.” 

 I was more interested in the new way of life I was approaching as a budding Army Officer, I told him I had no issue with it and to forget about it.  Surprisingly, I was not upset about it and was glad that my friend Anura de Silva received the coveted award.                     

My father said,” there would come a time when your son’s friends will tell him that you became the Schoolboy Cricketer only because his grandfather pulled for him.” We laughed over the matter and continued with our shopping after lunch. 

So many years later, thinking back, I agree with what my father did although he had taken an exceedingly rare stand. I still do not know whether my father’s appeal to his chairman was successful. 

Neither do I know whether the panel had a selection criterion where Anura deserved the award despite me having the better statistics and post-school records in captaining Colombo North Schools and Ceylon Schools and also playing for the Board President’s XI against the Hyderabad Blues and scoring 40 runs. 

This was one of the greatest lessons I learned from my father. 

As for Anura de Silva who passed away a few years ago,  had earned my greatest admiration and respect as a cricketer.  He was great on the field.  He was complete.



Sports

Uncle Percy is 85 today

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by Rex Clementine  

Cheerleader Percy Abeysekara turns 85 today. In his own words, ‘two years younger than Sir Garry Sobers and fitter than Sobers.’  

 Percy has been around cricket grounds cheering his beloved Sri Lanka and his favourite players for over 50 years now. Percy has many high profile friends in the sport.  

 Former India captain Ravi Shastri once wrote, ‘Percy, don’t lose your voice. Sri Lanka needs it more than you.’  

 Former New Zealand captain late Martin Crowe once gave away his Man of the Match award to Percy.  

 Once Percy was arrested in Australia; for entering the field of play. Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist protested. ‘Don’t make this an international crisis,’ they warned. Percy has friends even in the Aussie dressing room.  

 Cops in Australia are hard-nosed. They apparently give too hoots about what their Prime Minister thinks when it comes to implementing the law. But the few hours that Percy spent with them made them realize that this was not an overenthusiastic cricket fan. This is someone who had seen Don Bradman, Keith Miller, Neil Harvey et al.  

 Percy then asked the cops whether they knew the best advice Vic Richardson, Australia’s former captain gave his grandson Ian Chappell. They said no. ‘If you ever get a chance to captain Australia, don’t do it like a Victorian.’   

Now the arrest happened in the tiny city of Hobart in the small state of Tasmania. The cops actually were having a laugh that an outsider was taking a dig at a larger state. Percy knew the Aussie mentality.  

 He didn’t stop there. He quoted Shakespeare and Donne and the cops were overwhelmed. Not only was he let off without being charged, the cops were also seen taking pictures with Percy, an international icon.  

 Percy’s wit is his best friend.  

 Once a fan shouted. ‘Percy go home.’  

 Percy asked, Your home’  

 Once late Gamini Dissanayake asked, ‘Percy, why don’t you join the Cricket Board.’  

 Percy said, ‘Sir, there are three palanas I don’t like.  

One is Cricket palana.  

The second is deshapalana.  

The third is upath palana.’   

JR Jayewardene, another President of the board had also asked the same question a few years back. Percy replied him poetically. ‘Sir, I would rather be on the footboard than the Cricket Board.’  

 Here’s a man who has brought smiles to many cricket fans and players. We wish Uncle Percy well.

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Yupun, Nimali expected to provide solace

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by Reemus Fernando

When the men’s 10,000 metres was held at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Sri Lanka’s Ranatunga Karunananda was the last to finish but he won the admiration of the hosts. His courageous run to complete the race after the winners had been decided, epitomize the Olympic creed- the most important thing is not to win but to take part. Like Karunananda, Yupun Abeykoon and Nimali Liyanarachchi are not among the top athletes in their disciplines but could take inspiration from the late athlete’s 1964 story when they compete against odds in their respective disciplines.

After witnessing the country’s wildcard entrants being eliminated from the first round in other sports during the last few days, sprinter Yupun Abeykoon and middle distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi are expected to provide some solace when track and field sports of the Tokyo Olympics starts today.

Nimali Liyanarachchi has a huge burden on her shoulder to change things around when she competes in the women’s 800 metres today.

“Her preparations were hampered due to Covid 19 restrictions. I am banking on her fighting qualities to try and achieve her best performance here,” Nimali’s coach Sujith Abeysekara said in a telephone interview with The Island from Tokyo yesterday.

Nimali will compete in heat four where World Championship silver medallist Raevyn Rogers is the favourite. The US runner has run most of her races under two minutes. Nimali’s seasonal best of 2:03.15 seconds is at odds with her true potentials. But looking back at the hurdles she overcame to earn a wildcard for Olympics, the mere presence of the Sooriyawewa damsel in Tokyo itself is a victory and an encouragement for numerous underprivileged girls from outstations.

She was bedridden after meeting with an accident on the eve of Sri Lanka team’s departure to the South Asian Games in 2019. She spent a better part of the 2020 season on her recovery and when she was just getting ready to compete there were no competitions. On this backdrop even a seasonal best performance at today’s event will be a victory.

Five of her rivals in heat four have run the discipline under two minutes recently and it will be a tough ask for her to advance from the heat. Hence a seasonal best performance would be a realistic target.

Meanwhile, when the world search for a new Olympic champion in the men’s 100 metres after one and half decades, Sri Lanka’s track and field fans will want South Asian 100 metres record holder Yupun to advance from the heats.

Yupun in a social media post said that his goal was to be pressure free and try to advance to the next round. Abeykoon established a new Sri Lanka and South Asian record when he clocked 10.15 seconds in May and produced an outstanding fourth place finish at the Rome Diamond League in June to book a top rank in the world. In his post Yupun also reminded his fans of his Diamond League feat. “I hope everyone remembers the Diamond League I last participated. A lot of things can change in a race that ends between nine to ten seconds. I believe in my abilities and training. I will compete to get a good result.”

Abeykoon will compete in the men’s 100 metres heats on Saturday.

Track and field, the premier Olympic sport will feature many first round events today. However today’s only medal event (final) is the men’s 10,000 metres where Uganda’s world record-holder Joshua Cheptegei and world-leader Jacob Kiplimo are the men to beat.

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Sri Lanka eye series win after restricting India to 81

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By Rex Clementine

Birthday boy Wanindu Hasaranga is emerging to be a top class match winner as he claimed career best figures of four for nine on his 24th birthday to help Sri Lanka reduce India to 81 for eight in the third and final T-20 International at RPS yesterday.

It was India’s lowest total against Sri Lanka and their third lowest total in T-20 cricket. 

It was a day where Sri Lanka did not do much wrong with fielders backing up the bowlers with some outstanding catching.  

India needed captain Shikhar Dhawan to score big with half their regulars, close contacts of Krunal Pandya who tested for COVID, in isolation. However, Dhawan departed in the first over and India never recovered from thereon.

Dushmantha Chameera was on the money from the start drawing the Indian captain for a drive and Dhananjaya de Silva at wide slip completed  the catch.

Skipper Dasun Shanaka raised his game remarkably. Terribly out of form with the bat, Shanaka did the job with the ball having brought himself on midway through India’s innings. He took a spectacular left-handed diving catch to dismiss Nitish Rana.

The rest of the bowling was impeccable too keeping up the pressure making run scoring difficult and it looked India were content to bat out the 20 overs to try and see what total they can get at.

Kuldeep Yadav at number seven top scored with an unbeaten 23 that came off 28 balls while Bhuvneshwar Kumar made 16. Opener Ruturaj Gaikwad was the only other to get into double figures as India lacked momentum throughout their innings.

The early damage was done by Hasaranga as India batsmen struggled to pick his straight delivery and were adjudged leg before wicket.

Sri Lanka are set for an easy win and this will be their first ever series victory over India in the shortest format of the game in eight attempts.

Caption: Wanindu Hasaranga claimed career  best figures of four for nine as India were restricted for 81 for eight in the  third T-20 International at RPS yesterday.

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