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The Colombo Oval and I

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by S. Skandakumar

The majestic Oval scoreboard clock showed ten minutes to three on a Sunday afternoon when our final wicket fell. We had conceded first innings points by a small margin to Moors in a P. Sara Trophy encounter.

The year was 1973 and it was my first game for the club. The many Moors supporters hugged each other and left the venue to return to Braybrook Place to celebrate. With just half an hour left to tea, and two hours thereafter to the end of the game, their optimism was justified.

In our dressing room our skipper Benedictine Tony Appathurai had other ideas. “I want five by tea,” he thundered as he briskly led us back on to the field for that half an hour. I admired his arrogance!

We came back for tea with Moors tottering at 11 for 4! Johnian Sooriakumar and Josephian Viji Johnpillai produced an inspired opening spell.

Immediately after the tea break Tony handed the ball to me whispering ‘finish them off’.

Forty five minutes later, the final Moors wicket fell with their total at 19, and I had the flattering figures of five overs three maidens two runs four wickets!

We knocked off the required thirty odd runs for the loss of one wicket. Tony insisted that I went in at three to make the winning hit. We were home by nine wickets with time to spare and so began my memorable forty seven year association with the finest sporting and social club in Colombo!

 

Appreciation

Having watched International cricket at the Oval as a schoolboy from the Gandhi stands, queuing up from 4 am to get a ticket, the experience of playing on that hallowed turf was magical.

Prior to that, it was twice in successive years (1965 and 66) in the Royal -Thomian and once in the Gopalan Trophy, (1970) and yet now I was there with an identity. Yes I belonged to that great venue!

More than four decades later my heart still warms to that genial gentleman, and outstanding administrator cum sportsman P. Saravanamuttu whose vision for sport in general for the country and cricket in particular gave birth to that awesome cricket ground and stadium that came to be known as the ‘Colombo Oval’ in 1940.

The only venue in Sri Lanka which for over three decades provided facilities for Public Schools Athletics Meets, National and International Hockey Tournaments, Schools ‘big matches’ and International Cricket.

A selfless act of the Tamil Union in the best interests of National Sport. I felt a surge of pride to be a member!

 

Personal Challenges

In 1976, at my peak as an off-spinner cum batsman I went down with a virulent attack of Hepatitis that put paid to my chances of playing for Sri Lanka.

I followed medical advice to the letter to stay away from strenuous physical activity for three years and in 1979 made my way back cautiously into the club’s cricket scene at Division 3 level under the evergreen Josephian stalwart Felix Perumal (currently Club Patron) as skipper of the ‘Daily News’ Trophy team.

We emerged runners-up and during that period, initiated by Benedictine Selva Perumal, we pioneered the influx of talented young cricketers from the south to the club and to competitive cricket in Colombo.

The lads were understandably shy and unsure of themselves at first in an English- speaking environment as the Tamil Union then was. It was refreshing to see how the Colombo schoolboys at the nets rallied round to help them overcome this initial handicap and soon we saw the emergence of a cohesive, confident and strong combination of players.

Yes, the club’s unwritten rule for equal opportunity led to many young cricketers from modest backgrounds achieving their full potential, while the exceptional among them reached stardom!

Sadly the pool of talent in the north was beginning to dry up at this time as painful events began to take hold of that otherwise tranquil area and its gentle, affectionate people.

 

Progress

After a season at Division 3, I felt ready to move up and found a place in Josephian Rajiv Benedict’s Division 2 team vying for the “Donovan Andree” trophy in 1981.

Rajiv was a revelation on the playing field. Fiercely competitive, he bemused many a batsman with his very late in swing and amused the genial umpires of that vintage with his aggressive show of exasperation whenever an appeal of his for a wicket was turned down.

The season, needless to say, was most enjoyable and if my memory serves me right we clinched the trophy that year.

With Royalist Rohan Jayasekera, the P. Sara team captain migrating to Canada mid -season in 1981, I was yanked out of Rajiv’s team and placed in charge of a very young and talented Division 1 team.

The players showed their approval of my appointment in my very first match as captain against the Police at the Park, when our openers Josephian Wayne Jansz and Mahindian Athula Samarasekera broke a long standing record for the first wicket held by Moors’ Makeen Salih and Herbie Felsingher of 352 runs! A remarkable achievement indeed for two youngsters barely out of school!

At age 35, the following year 82/83 was my only full season as captain and player, and was memorable for more reasons than one.

The team and squad comprised of boys from Royal, S. Thomas’, St. Joseph’s, Ananda, Isipathana, D.S Senanayake, Thurstan, St. Peter’s, Prince of Wales, and Mahinda.

The atmosphere in the dressing room throughout the season was one of amazing cordiality and good humour while on the field it was serious endeavour.

‘ P. Sara’ had given way to the ‘Lakspray Trophy’ that year as the game needed sponsorship modest though it may have been. As it was the inaugural year for that trophy, we were eager to win it and repeat history to match our peers who annexed the P. Sara Trophy in its initial year.

We lost it to Bloomfield on a scorer’s lapse by a margin as infinitely small as 0.15 points when scorebooks were unprecedentedly opened after the tournament was concluded. That lapse made in the very first match of the final round in recording penalties for slow over rates went undetected throughout the rest of the season!

However, each of us who played in that team will forever look back on that season and say with pride that ‘we won that trophy on the playing field and conceded it off it to uphold the spirit of the game’

Headlines such as ‘Tamil Union’s Mathematical Magic’; ‘Tamils do the Impossible’ and ‘Tamils Worthy Champions’ told their own story of how that final game in the tournament was planned and executed!

Exhausted mentally and physically at the end of that memorable season, I then turned my attention to tennis at the club which in the ensuing years became almost a daily ritual inspired by competition of an enjoyable nature from like minded fellow members.

 

Recognition of the Club

In 1981, Sri Lanka’s admission as a full member of the International Cricket Council as a ‘Test playing nation’ was very much on the cards and was conditional upon the availability of an appropriate venue.

The Oval was the only venue that met the standards stipulated by the ICC when the application was tabled in London at Lord’s that year.

Appropriately the first ever Test match versus England was played at the Oval in February 1982, opening a new and exciting chapter in the nation’s cricket history. Happily three years later the first ever Test win was also registered at the same venue when India were humbled.

The blessed turf for decades was nursed with motherly care by the only grounds women the world had known at that time, Mari Amma (Mary) and her daughter Innasi Amma. In later years, Amaravathy and her sister Saroja continued the excellent work under the supervision of Head Groundsman H.D Jayasena.I was privileged to be Hony Ground Secretary when the ‘Inaugural Test’ was played in 1982.

 

The Setback

A year and half later, the events of ‘July ‘83’ had a devastating impact on the club and its premises. The main pavilion suffered extensive damage and valuable records and photos were irretrievably destroyed. A contribution from the Colombo Cricket Club was the only gesture of financial goodwill the club received at that time.

The then Cricket Board’s silence was deafening! A monumental tragedy for a club that provided so much for cricket in particular and sport in general for the country.

Gifts of cricket equipment were received from the High Commissions of England and Australia.

 

The Revival

In the club’s centenary year in 1999-2000, which coincided with the new millennium, a re-development programme was pursued in earnest.

As club President in that period, I was fortunate to have office bearers as dedicated as the players I had in 1982/83 when I led the club’s Division 1 cricket team. The general committee provided excellent support to me to put into effect the programme of activity aimed at the resuscitation of the club. Well wishers both in Sri Lanka and overseas contributed generously to swell the Development Fund. Donations from overseas- based members and well wishers from the US, UK, Emirates, Botswana, Zambia, Australia and New Zealand were proof, if indeed proof were needed, of their appreciation of the service that the venue had provided for the cause of sport over the decades.

A quote from a letter from the then CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board Tim Lamb merits recording.

His letter reads:

“We recall with sadness the events of 1983 and their impact on your stadium because I know that the ‘OVAL’ to Sri Lanka Cricket was in many ways what Lord‘s is to us today. I have no doubt that you will receive the fullest support in your efforts to restore the stadium to its former glory “

The initiatives to re-vitalise the club in 1999/2000, were taken to greater heights by succeeding Presidents and their committees.

What we have today is a tribute to their perseverance, commitment and generosity in terms of their time and resources as also that of our sponsors and well wishers over the years. The Cricket Board’s support merits special mention.

The contribution of our sportsmen in the centenary year also merits mention.

Our cricketers annexed the championship of three of the four tournaments conducted by the Cricket Board (Premier Limited Overs, Under 23, and Div 2 Donovan Andree while ending runners-up in the fourth viz the Premier Division 1 League)

Our Tennis stalwarts not to be outdone annexed the Veterans All Island over 55 singles and doubles titles rounding off a unique year for sport at the club.

To the incoming members and those who have joined in recent years, I say acquaint yourselves with the proud history of this great institution which has stood unwaveringly for all that is fair, just and equal in its every endeavour. When it is your turn to take office remember what has gone before you, and never forget the responsibility you have to maintain its rich traditions and above all its cherished reputation.

“Today is what it is, and tomorrow what it might be, simply because of all the yesterdays.” For me, the forty seven year association with the Oval, has indeed been “A Rewarding and Emotional Affair to Remember”



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The brand of cricket we want to play is free and relaxed:  – Sangakkara

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The 2008 IPL champions employed five opening pairs in the previous edition.

As many as five opening pairs were experimented with by the Rajasthan Royals last season. Ahead of their season opener against Punjab Kings, Sanju Samson, the newly-appointed captain of the franchise says that this year around, more stability can be expected from the side that chopped and changed so much to the extent of being unable to settle on a side until much later in the tournament.

“Myself and Sanga will try to give the best combination,” said Samson on Sunday (April 11). “From my point of view, it’s crucial to give an individual or a pair of opening partners enough time in the tournament. So, I think a bit of stability will be seen in this tournament. The rest it depends on how we go.”

Much has been debated about the batting order. Whilst Jos Buttler’s record at the top speaks for itself, Ben Stokes has been their go-to man for the opening slot. With Robin Uthappa gone this year, will they persist with Stokes at the top with Yashasvi Jaiswal, or will they promote Buttler up to a position he loves? Without committing too much either way about their preferred sequence, Kumar Sangakkara, the director of cricket at the Royals said the combination will be a decision they will undertake with the “full buying of the players involved”.

“We look to finalise (combinations) later on today before we go for training and we want we want to keep our options open,” said Sangakkara. “The most important thing is that players are communicated to clearly as to what their roles are and get them to commit to it.

“What we planned to do is get a balanced side, everyone available, a full squad, try and have a consistent philosophy of cricket. The brand of cricket that we want to play is quite free and relaxed. Also in terms of preparing well and executing well… to get everyone prepared to think and to be problem-solvers. To think for themselves. It helps Sanju a lot on the field when people are thinking for themselves and know what’s going on. It builds a lot of trust within the group as well. Everyone has individual strengths that they bring into the side which are highly valued. We try and build that into a good unit where everyone knows what they’re doing, what their value is and what their roles are. Then we’ll go and try to play some good cricket.”

An overhaul in how the Royals went about their business was needed, having had finished last in 2020. Rajasthan just couldn’t crack the code of winning matches consistently and a lot of it had to do with the lack of the team striking together. There were moments of brilliance before they fell back.

“We have a lot of match-winners who are absolutely wonderful players…in Sanju Samson, Rahul Tewatia, our fast bowlers. The key is to have different people who do something a little bit special on the day and the point of a great team performance is to have your regular players performing consistently and once in a while. Someone stepping in to do a little bit extra. If it’s a different player most of the time and not the same person, it’s even better.”

Another area of concern last year was the lack of support from the contingent of pace bowlers around Jofra Archer, who was named MVP. Archer missing the first few games will be a big blow for Rajasthan. Sangakkara, however, threw his support behind the inexperienced Indian bowlers in their squad to come good.

“I think inexperience sometimes can work for you and against. Inexperience would probably mean that the opposition has not really seen them either, but fast bowling, specially in the IPL is not an easy task and we saw that yesterday as well. Sometimes the wickets are really good for batting or most of the wickets are, so you have to be quite skillful. So I’m pretty confident that our young fast bowlers will step up. We’ve had Kartik Tyagi who did very well last season in patches in various phases of the game and this year we have a new additions in Kuldip Yadav and Chetan Sakariya. So I think it’s about you know keeping them again focused on what their job is really and get them trained and prepared to execute all the different deliveries and scenarios and match plans for the opposition. But at the same time concentrate in giving them confidence of their own strengths.”

When asked if despite all his years in the game, the highs and lows, he feels pressure of expectations in his new role, Sangakkara didn’t mince his words.

“I think there are always expectations and pressure. You can’t get away from that and you got to accept it. And the only way you deal with it is really, you know ticking off the boxes that you want in terms of training, in terms of preparation, getting combinations right. Get the players involved take ownership of not their own roles, but also the team plans and that makes things a lot easier. You can’t guarantee what will happen on the day of a match, but what you can guarantee is that you can go out and control what you control. Take a great attitude out, and Sanju always talks about playing with passion and with heart. I think that’s a very important point as well. That can really lift a team to do some special things out there when the pressure is on.

“So for me personally, know my job is to get everyone ready and once they get on the field my job is actually secondary. It’s about them going out there and expressing themselves playing really good smart cricket. But we wait and see. I think everyone’s really looking forward to starting the tournament,” he added.

 

 

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Sheran’s back to back half centuries help Joes

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Under-19 Cricket

Back to back half centuries by Sheran Fonseka stood in good stead for St. Joseph’s as they forced a draw to their First XI cricket encounter against S. Thomas’ at Darley Road on Monday. Thus they retained the Gilmore Jayasuriya Trophy which they won under the captaincy of Sameera Weerasinghe in 2009.

Commencing from 344 for nine overnight, the Thomians declared their innings after Yasiru Rodrigo completed his century, an unbeaten 103 runs.

It was Rodrigo’s day as he followed up his century with a three wicket haul to trouble the home team.

The Joes lost wickets at regular intervals but Fonseka’s contribution helped them post 176 for nine wickets declared. Soon they were asked to follow on but the open batsmen put up a healthy stand to prevent a repetition of first innings disappointments.

Fonseka scored an unbeaten 57 runs and was involved in a first wicket stand of 123 runs with Sadeesh Jayawardena who scored 62.

Meanwhile the match between Mahanama and St. Anne’s ended in a draw at Kurunegala after the home team posted 164 for nine wickets in reply to visitors’ 169 runs.

Match Results

S. Thomas’ V St. Joseph’s at

Darley Road

S. Thomas’ 344 for 9 overnight 350 for 9 decl. in 103 overs (Anuk Palihawadena 54, Ryan Fernando 71, Thenuka Liyanage 36, Yasiru Rodrigo 103 n.o., Gunaratnam Caniston 53; Dunith Wellalage 3/111, Shenuka de Silva 2/13)

St. Joseph’s 176 for 9 decl. in 51 overs (Sheran Fonseka 92, Mithira Thenura 20; Yasiru Rodrigo 3/48, Gunaratnam Caniston 3/42, Anuk Palihawadena 2/48) and 127 for 1 in 31 overs (Sadeesh Jayawardena 62, Sheran Fonseka 57n.o.)

Mahanama V St. Anne’s at Kurunegala

Mahanama 169 all out in 71.2 overs (Sadishan Chamodya 22, Pavan Rathnayake 81, Sachira Weliwatta 23; Pasindu Tennakoon 4/51, Manaan Muzammil 2/49, Kalindu Wijesinghe 2/28)

St. Anne’s 79 for 1 overnight 164 for 9 in 69 overs (Dilhara Deshabandu 39, Kavindu Ekanayake 43, Pivithu Fernando 22, Shevan Nimantha 20; Devindu Kekirideniya 4/57 ) (RF)

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Dahamdi, Esha win Round Robin stage

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Sri Lanka Girls U-14 Chess Grand Prix 2021

Sanudula Dahamdi of Musaeus College and Esha Pallie of Visakha Vidyalaya were the winners of Group ‘X’ and ‘Y’ respectively at the end of the Round Robin stage of the Sri Lanka Youth Girls’ (Under-14) Chess Grand Prix 2021

Dahamdi was outstanding right throughout as she remained unbeaten to score nine points in nine games. Pallie won Group ‘Y’ with a score of 7 ½ points.

Dahamdi beat L.H.M.G.S. Somarathne, Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake and Sasmi Sithumsa in the second session to remain unbeaten.

Esha had a tough competition in last three rounds with a win against Piyumi Uthpala Amarathunga and a draw against Onwli Vithanawasam. She lost her encounter Tenuli Dahamna Rathnayake.

Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake( Central College, Veyangoda), Tharuli Vihansa Ranganath(Yoshida International School) and Oshini Devindya Gunawardhana (Pushpadana High School) scored 5.5, 5.0 and 5.0 respectively and managed to win second, third and fourth places in Group ‘X’ respectively by selecting to the quarter finals.

Oneli Vithanawasam (Lyceum International, Wattala), Desandhi Dhihansa Gamage (Sirimavo Bandaranayake BV) and Tenuli Dhahamna Rathnayake (Gothami Balika Vidyalaya) were placed second, third and fourth in Group ‘Y’.

Esha Pallie, Oneli Vithanawasam, Desandhi Gamage and Dhahamna Rathnayake are now in the quarter-finals.

The top four players in Group ‘X’ and ‘Y’ will play a knocked out rounds.

The Youth Girls Chess Grand Prix 2021 which commenced on April 2 with 18 leading Girls Under 14 Chess players will culminate on April 16.

Quarter Finals

A – Q/F 1 – X winner V Y 4th – Dahamdi V Tenuli

B – Q/F 2 – Y Winner V X 4th – Esha Pallie V Oshini

C – Q/F 3 – X Runner Up V Y 3rd – Nemindi V Desandi

D – Q/F 4 – Y Runner Up V X 3rd – Oneli V Tharuli

The Chess Federation of Sri Lanka is offering Rs. 55,000/= as cash awards for the winners.

The event is held according to the strict health guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health and The Medical Unit of Ministry of Sports.

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